In the middle of 2011, I spent a week doing what is posted below: An edit test for a publication that sought me out but then didn't hire me. From what I was told, I didn't get the job because they couldn't afford me (that I never discussed salary makes me wonder if they were just letting me down easy -- regardless, I never got confirmation that this edit test was so much as glanced at). I'm not bitter (or...not any more bitter than usual), but putting about a week's worth of after-work activities on hold to prove myself when I had proven enough of myself in the first place to be asked to do so and furthermore have spent the past six and a half years proving my abilities (I'm not trying to say, "Google me," but Google me) was a total waste of time. And if I have a New Year's resolution that can be said aloud it's: Waste less time. Perhaps pulling this out of a void and actually doing something with it (even if that something is tossing it into the world without so much as rereading it -- I can't, but maybe you will want to ) is making up for lost time. Maybe it's a waste of even more time. At the very least, you may want to scroll to the bottom for the Basketball Wives video I did. But I understand if you don't, and furthermore won't hire me. I'm used to it.
(Keep in mind that these 4,000 words followed what was requested: Three short pieces and two long ones. There was some additional programming-type short form stuff that I'm not including because it would just be tedious to read, but know that it was time-consuming, too.)
(Also, I did this because I really wanted the job. I understand that rejection is a risk that comes with applying, but all the understanding in the world won't get me that time back.)
Here's to exorcism...
Danny McBride is Not Kenny Powers and Other Shockers
Listen up, you beautiful bitches: Danny McBride's about to fuck you up with some truth. "People die," he recently told GQ's Daniel Riley, referring to the third season of Eastbound & Down, which the actor/co-creator is currently filming in Wilmington, North Carolina. For those who saw the show's bold and brilliant second season, which found his Kenny Powers character uprooted to Mexico and playing baseball amongst a cast that was almost entirely different than that of the first season, this kind of shake-up won't come as much of a surprise. Really, everything will be OK as long as they don't hurt Stevie.
Also in that interview, McBride discusses why the third season will be Eastbound's last ("We always kind of saw it as something that would have a short run"). But most hilariously, he talks about confusion that ensues from him playing Powers so well. "I mean, Kenny Powers is the type of dude that [Eastbound director/co-creator Jody Hill] and I have always thought was funny, and it's the type of character that I think we've grown up around, but it's not really a character that either of us are like," he for some reason needs to explain still, citing a confused interviewer from Emmy Magazine.
So there's your newsflash: Danny McBride is not the character he plays on TV. Also, Ben Kingsley is not Gandhi (Kingsley's not dead, for one thing), Julia Roberts is not a hooker nor does she have a heart of gold (probably), Jim Caviezel has yet to perform a single miracle including resurrection, you can feed Howie Mandel after midnight without worrying about him turning into a Gremlin (although maybe keep the water away on account of his O.C.D.), Marlon Brando never made anyone an offer they couldn't refuse (again, probably) and C. Thomas Howell is neither black, nor a white person who pretended to be black to get into college. If you have any more questions about actors and their roles, you know where to find us.
Writer Who "Outed" Ellen Page Learns Important Lesson About Muckraking
In a story that feels like it's from the early '90s, an anonymous writer for a site whose design looks like it's from the late '90s, claims to have outed Ellen Page. This writer for V-Generations provides no actual proof of Page's alleged lesbianism (a "reliable source," who supposedly provided some predictable names of Page's past lovers like Drew Barrymore, Clea DuVall and Ben Foster is the sole citation). The post that also claims, "V-Generations was never really supposed to be a gossip site." But oh, how quickly they learn! A reliable source (fine: my brain) tells me that an anonymous writer's anonymous source is not very reliable!
The motivation seems to be some sort of political beef ("Like many other actors she hides behind her lawyer and manager deep in the closet, while gay teenagers struggle to survive," this person writes). Mind your own It Gets Better, Anonymous Blogger!
In a follow-up post, this person writes about the traffic spike stemming from his or her article being posted on the gossip-aggregate LiveJournal community Oh No They Didn't. Though it's since been removed, it has (of course) been reposted at ONTD. "In my best times V-Generations.com reached probably 250 readers in a month. Now I have 26.000+ readers within 2 days. Why? Hollywood gossip. Some say that I am a sad individual for exposing Ellen Page and maybe they are right, but do you want to know what’s really sad? It is sad that a story about the famine in Somalia hardly interests anyone while the outing of an actor causes a conscious meltdown for many," read part of its poor-little-temporary-rich-girl sentiment.
Individuals aside, do you want to know what's really, really sad? That this prompted enough attention to spawn a back-and-forth. Page's sexuality has been debated for years, by gossips far cleverer than V-Whateverhisorhernameis, and then reblogged by gossips far more discerning than those at ONTD. This was one big lesson in remedial Internet for everyone. Meanwhile, Page hasn't said a word and gay teenagers continue their struggles. Great work, everyone!
Kelly Osbourne Calls Christina Aguilera "Fat," Learns by Watching You
On Friday's episode of E!'s Fashion Police, Kelly Osbourne took a shot at Christina Aguilera's weight. "Maybe she is just becoming the fat bitch she was born to be. I don't know," was the rock and roll heiress' reaction to a shot of Xtina in a black Givenchy dress she wore to a perfume promotion. "She called me fat for so many fucking years," Osbourne continued. "So you know what? You're fat too."
Keeping in mind that scathing is de rigueur on Fashion Police (host Joan Rivers described Aguilera as looking "stuffed into" the dress), this is over the top to the point of either being camp or legitimately threatening in intent. The former scenario is self-evident ("We both like to be bitches," is how she summed up this feud in 2003 and it's only gotten more Dynasty from there!), but the latter requires some dot-connecting. Osbourne told Shape magazine last year in an article that celebrated her newly svelte figure, "I was called fat and ugly in the press almost my entire life … It sets you up to hate yourself in a huge way. I was so angry about the things people said about me. I truly believe it's the main reason I turned to Vicodin and ended up in rehab three times. I just hated myself." If it affected her so profoundly, why foist that misery on someone else (who, by the way, isn't fat)? For a 9-year rivalry that Osbourne started (at least publicly)? For real?
In fact, to hear her mother Sharon tell it, UK talk show host Jonathan Ross' on-air comments on Osbourne's weight in her presence were "the straw that broke the camel's back" that led to her "complete mental meltdown." So Osbourne knows the full extent of her cruelty in practical terms or she has a terrible memory or she's a liar who'll pull the weight card for sympathy. No matter how you slice it, Osbourne's doing a terrible job at being a decent human being.
Maybe most telling were Osbourne's comments on Wednesday's episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "No one takes fashion advice from a fat person…Hello, unfortunately it's the world that we live in. I've always had, like, this little fashion voice inside me, but no one would ever pay attention to it. And that's fine, I understand the way the world works, but it just isn't always nice." Nor is Osbourne. And now that she's thin, that little part-of-the-problem-not-the-solution number fits her so well.
The Homoerotics of Chris Brown
We're witnessing the dawn of the relaxation of male sexuality in pop culture. Gone is the rigidity of mass machismo in this bromantic, butt-loving age. Jason Segel can publicly admit that he has a man crush on Bad Teacher co-star Justin Timberlake. Dudes on Jersey Shore dance with each other, openly flirt and, at least in Vinny's case, wax ecstatic about how good a bidet feels on one's "butthole." The device that facilitates The Change-Up's take on the switched-body trope? Two dudes peeing side-by-side in a fountain.
Though he's nearly as prone to casual homophobia as music-making, Chris Brown could be the poster child for this permissive attitude regarding homoeroticism. Simply put, the dude goes both ways when it comes to duets. In fact, he's more likely to team up with men on record than he is women: Of his 32 charted vocal collaborations, seven of them feature women (and only six different ladies, as Keri Hilson pops up twice). It follows that of the 12 outsiders who lend their voices to his just-released Boy in Detention mixtape, only three of them are women (Se7en, Joelle James and Dawn Richard). Superficially, this isn't surprising or particularly telling. Detention is defined by its hip-hop aspirations (the majority of tracks find Brown rapping by biting Kanye's steez, in between high-pitched cackles). Hip-hop is a boys club, and the boys of Detention take their business to the strip club.
Homosocial turns homoerotic, though, when frequent collaborator Kevin McCall notes, "Ain't no fun if you don't share with the homies!" He's referring to sex partners and referencing the Snoop Dogg track/musical gang bang "Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)" from Doggystyle, in which 213 and Kurupt joined Snoop to wax ecstatic about group sex to the point of rejecting basic man-on-woman copulating. And really: that's no fun? Not even a little? Like, literally, you need your boys in the room in order to make having sex with a woman enjoyable? Kinda gay, bros.
McCall seems marked by general unawareness ("Whole lotta sex, whole lotta liquor / Whole lotta chicks, not a lotta niggas / Not at my party, it's all about bitches," he says on a track that features four male voices and no female ones). And yet, his words seem too bold for him not to know what he's doing. It almost seems like he's empowered by Brown. Previously, on Brown's In My Zone 2 mixtape, McCall repeatedly suggested that when it comes to haters, they should, 'Fuck 'em all like a orgy." Not since DMX's "Where the Hood At" ("Since we all right here, you hold my dick while he suckin' it") has a self-identified straight man explicitly invoked gay sex. (Both came with caveats: In McCall's instance, later in the track he dropped a, "No homo," while X spat straight up homophobic couplets like, "How you gonna explain fuckin' a man? / Even if we squashed the beef, I ain't touchin' ya hand.")
It is unsurprising that Brown is host to such vividly homoerotic imagery. You can say many, many things about his petulance and mediocre taste and singing (just think: he's basically Generation Z's Teddy Pendergrass…while you're thinking, feel free to weep), but you can't really knock him for approaching his own sexuality with ease. He isn't afraid, for example, to sing in unison with Joe Jonas, "I just can't get you out of my mind / All I keep seein' is your picture / Girl, I don't wanna see no more" on the latter's debut solo single "See No More." The lines Brown trades with Justin Bieber in F.A.M.E.'s "Next to You" sound like pillow talk (Brown: "You've got that smile that only heaven can make / I pray to God everyday that you keep that smile"; Bieber: "You are my dream. There's not a thing I will not do / I'll give my life up for you 'cause you are my dream."). He does this all with nary a, "No homo" (it is Bieber, on Detention's "Next to You" follow-up, "Ladies Love Me," who raps, "I am hetero, baby!").
Brown's even more likely to link up with other dudes to sing about sex than love. A bunch of bros singing explicitly about fucking is not exactly a revelation in R&B (see: Jodeci, Silk and H-Town of the '90s), but separate acts making the effort to come together to do so is. It makes for hilarious juxtapositions, even when the scenario isn't a strict duet but a rapper-singer trade-off. In the off-color-at-best/stomach-turning-at-worst "Wet the Bed" from F.A.M.E., he verbally 69s with Ludacris (Luda: "Hear the sound of your body drip, drip, drip / While I kiss both sets of lip, lip, lips"; Brown: "I ain't afraid to drown if that means I'm deep up in your ocean"). Opposites attract in "Best Love Song" with T-Pain (nappy boy meets pretty boy). Brown and Twista collaborate on "Make a Movie," and there only seems to be a single piece of media that's intended to be the outcome of this track (Brown: "Let me pull my camera out, let's make a movie starring you and me, yeah, girl"; Twista: "Shawty we gon' make a movie").
With Tyga, Brown's partner on his comeback-igniting Fan of a Fan mixtape, the trade-off between the rapping and singing reads like Zane's Sex Chronicles dialogue:
Tyga: I know this ain't your first time, so don't be…
Chris: Don't be acting shy up in this room like I make you nervous.
(From "Like a Virgin Again")
Tyga: Damn, I be wishing you was here right now
Chris: I wanna make love to my baby!
(From "Make Love")
The only real no-homo caveat here is Brown's frequent repetition of the word "girl," which he says as often as a televised drag queen. Granted, just because these lines read like call-and-responses, it doesn't meant they're intended for that kind of interpretation: mostly whomever is the guest (be it Brown on hooks or some rapper on a quick 16) is there for support. But you could read that as sexual chemistry, too, if you wanted: Brown and his male collaborators typically have sexual interests that fall squarely in line. Both he and the New Boyz, for example, believe that having sex with a girl is better with the lights off. But why wouldn't these dudes want to look at the girl they're having sex with, especially one described as a "top of the line" dime? That is a perfect example of a thing that makes you go hmmmm.
Straight dudes get together and talk about sex, and they also typically compete for the same women, so perhaps by presenting a uniform front, Brown and whoever he's swapping spit with on any given track are just leveling the playing field. The sentiment is something like, "We all want one thing, pick which one of us is conveying it best." Brown also confuses sex and intimacy something terrible on his dreadful spin on Drake's "Marvin's Room" ("I bet if I lick that spot then you won't act like that / I miss giving you them back shots, girl you remember that" is part of the fucking chorus!). So who knows what he really thinks about sex, if anything. His public behavior has repeatedly proven him reckless, and it wouldn't be shocking to find out that there's no agenda here. It could all amount to stumbling into coincidence.
And yet, his boldness is undeniable. When Brown dyed his hair blonde earlier this year, he was repeatedly called gay on the Internet (his resemblance to the oft-speculated-about Sisqo undoubtedly fueled the talk). But he didn't change it back. He's said terrible things about people he thinks that are gay (Brown called B2K's Raz B a "dick in da booty ass lil boy") and then when called out for homophobia, he's answered with the kind of self-entitlement usually reserved for bigots ("I'm not homophobic! He's just disrespectful!!!"). All of this is to say that Breezy is typically full of hot air. Maybe what drives him to team up with men for sex talk is simply getting on every track possible and just singing whatever. He's just keeping his options open, like the sexually adventurous so often do.
The Ballad of La Toya Jackson Is On Repeat
The home-shopping medium (as defined by the likes of HSN and QVC) is the final frontier of celebrity honesty. That is not to say that the transition from entertainer to spokesperson is an occupational truth serum. On the contrary, the bullshit that people who sell themselves for a living spout becomes exponential when they start selling the products with their names on them. And it is in that incessant babble that the truth surfaces. It would have to: No other medium forces them to appear live in multi-hour stretches without the parachute of a publicist holding their hands, ready to swoop in and divert attention. That celebrities are often eccentric by nature and undoubtedly as a result of their fame only exacerbates the fact that if you make someone talk about perfume for a long enough period of time (i.e. longer than: "That smells good, what is that?" "It's [Brand]."), they will start to stay ridiculous things.
Though the only thing she had to shill was her recent memoir and she was broadcast on Stickam instead of cable, La Toya Jackson basically entered herself into a home-shopping scenario on Sunday and the results were predictably goofy. (If you need any proof of the entertainment value in home-shopping stints, check YouTube for any number of re-edits and highlight reels. Mariah Carey's recent work on HSN was a viral smash.) Over the course of 90 minutes that were plagued by sound drops and the awkwardness of a producer reading off chat-room comments as a substitute call-in scenario, Jackson seemed oblivious to her own meek-weirdo freak-flag flying. If a lack of awareness is a primary component of camp, Jackson is the human embodiment of the sensibility. A sampling of her fantastic quotes:
- "I'm sorry, but I just don't trust cats. I'm afraid they may turn on you."
- "[I] wanted to work at McDonalds!"
- "I love living in condo life, because you have your freedom to go whenever you want and come back and everything is secure"
- "Chicago: That's a windy city!"
- "[Her brother Michael] said it best when he said, 'Gone Too Soon.' He should definitely be with us here today. And he was too young to be gone. 'Gone Too Soon' is definitely true in his case."
- [On Bubbles the chimp] "Michael would dress him in Osh Bosh B'Gosh [sic] and the whole clothes"
- [Interrupting the discussion to point out that the camera man was looking at her] "He's like all smiles! It's funny!"
- "I like British history."
- "[Sister Janet] is always saying something about something!"
- "Read self-help books! Put positive thoughts in your head and keep repeating them over and over and over again until it locks in your subconscious and your subliminal will automatically set forth and move forward."
This is all said with the clipped and proper Jackson affect that finds her emphasizing the "T" in "IT-aly" and punctuating assertions with "…and things of that nature" and "…and the whole bit." And then there is that signature giggle of hers that sounds like it should be owned by an anthropomorphized rainbow in a cartoon about ponies.
It is, of course, tempting to make our own highlights reel of this. However, for the sake of it being lighthearted entertainment, as such a video would have to be to work on the Internet, it would have to forgo the more unsettling element of the discussion: The presence of Jackson's business partner and co-writer Jeffré Phillips. Jackson apparently had no idea he'd be joining her as, upon arriving on set she asked, "Why do we have two chairs here? For me to put my things on or…?" The camera cut away while Jackson was apparently filled in on the setup of her own chat.
Phillips, a baby-faced smooth talker in a backwards Kangol hat, then assisted Jackson throughout the chat. He'd prompt her to discuss, say, her fear of flying when the topic of travel came up. He asked her questions he had to already knew the answer to as her co-writer ("When was the first time you realized that, 'I'm over the abuse?' And have you realized that as of today?"). In that respect, this chat was more like a drag-show version of an interview than an actual interview. He helped her on the details that she couldn't get right. Discussing her divorce from her abusive husband/manager Jack Gordon, Jackson said, "I'm a business woman, and that's what I've done ever since I left this guy since 19…I don't know what year that was when I left him." "May 3, 1996," Phillips offered.
What's mind-blowing about this is that you'd think that even someone raised without holidays (like Jackson who was a Jehovah's witness throughout her youth) would brand on her brain the day that she left an abuser. Gordon's reign of terror over Jackson's life takes up 150 pages – almost half – of her memoir (which begins to read like torture porn after just a few instances of her getting beat until she was unconscious and otherwise held against her will). Why on earth doesn't she know that date? Well, one reason could be because Phillips knows it for her.
Jackson has now spent two memoirs discussing her liberation from detrimentally controlling men. Her first book, La Toya, was largely devoted to painting her father Joseph as an abusive monster (Jackson goes as far as implying that he sexually abused her older sister Rebbie). Much of that is revised in Starting Over. Now Joseph's "bark is worse than his bite" and negative things said about him hurt her "deeply." The villain of Starting Over is Gordon, and much is made in the triumph of liberating oneself from dependency on a man. During this live Stickam shill-fest, then, the false advertising was palpable.
She's filled volumes, but this read like the Jackson's real Chapter 3 with Phillips subbing in as the man she defers to. At no point did he berate her, but he seemed to have much more say on her career than she does. One viewer wrote in to ask about an as-yet unreleased pro-gay song, "Love, Honor and Obey," and Phillips assured the fan, "It will be the first single off the next album." "Oh really? OK," murmured Jackson. Someone else asked about her participation in an upcoming Michael Jackson tribute show, and Jackson said, "I don't know if I'm going to be performing. Am I?" Phillips informed her that no decision has been made. "What's one rumor that you'd like to clear up?" asked the producer. "What's one rumor that I'd like to clear up? Do you know?" asked Jackson. Phillips wasn't sure.
Don't take this as an implication that Jackson has once again found herself in the same perilous situation that she wrote about in her first book and then retracted (supposedly, by the way, Gordon controlled that book) and then wrote about in her second book and has yet to retract. She at times seemed just as controlling of Phillips, demanding that he tell certain stories or rattle off the "Love, Honor and Obey" lyrics, only then to jump in herself. Phillips started talking about Jackson's positive lifestyle and went as far as to say that she doesn't listen to rap or any music in which people scream or yell. "There's a lot of positive rap music, not all of it is negative!" Jackson retorted. That someone so prone to disaster could be so quick on the uptake with damage control is somehow encouraging.
Though covered in crests and seemingly still living in the kind of opulence that would allow a family member to blow millions in one visit to a tacky Vegas antique store, Jackson remains a tragic figure. It's all relative, literally, as she's the runt of a stratospherically successful family. Jackson fudges chart stats repeatedly in her book (she's never had a Top 40 pop hit in the U.S.) and through other self-aggrandizement, you get the sense that she's wracked with insecurity. A human crutch is not an unreasonable thing for someone like her to depend on, but it does annihilate her rhetoric of liberation.
"You can always start over! No matter how many mistakes that you make in life it's always good to continue and start over until you get it right. And you do it again and again and again and again until it gets right," she said toward the end of the chat. She'll lay her story out for you, but the most thorough reading of La Toya Jackson happens between the lines.
Bonus (as in was not part of the edit test, but felt like a necessary thing to do)
She Said/She Said Video: Basketball Wives Talk Too Much About Talking
If you've never watched Basketball Wives, it's too late now: VH1's highest rated show (a sort of Flavor of Love with better shoes and without the Flavor) just wrapped its third season and won't be back for a few months. But don't worry, we have you covered – everything you need to know about this show is in the video below. Basically, these women spend a lot of time talking about talking and telling and asking. And sometimes they get drunk and hit each other. Simple! Like many reality shows, this is a perfect metaphor for the way that people complicate their own lives merely for the sake of keeping occupied.