What makes truth, truth?
So the fascination with James Frey’sbook A Million Little Pieces has died down by now. Thank goodness. While reading the novel, I found myself appalled. I kept on asking myself “is this possible? It can’t be true.” Then the news broke. James Frey had made up some of the story. My heart dropped. Can this be true? I was hoping it to be another plot to destroy the life of a talented writer. There must be some credit given especially if you’ve got Oprah sitting in front of you and practically ripping the pages out of the book. It’s pretty tough to bend the truth, but what exactly is the truth? Are we able to see the man behind the tale? Does it all come down to what a writer knows? So Oprah retracted her original statement. At first, she supported the book. She launched Frey’s career. The New York Times wrote, “Ms. Winfrey’s enthusiastic endorsement helped the book to sell more than two million copies last year, making it the second-highest-selling book of 2005.” That’s a lot. If I could sell two million copies of a book I call my autobiography, then I would have made it. If James Frey wants to lie about his own life then let him lie. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not he’s lying. It’s his life; emphasis on life. No one else can vouch that it’s true besides the characters.
Then comes the question of truth. Does it have to be true? Is lying about a life of drug abuse, criminal acts, and psychotherapy considered faulty, vulgar, or even offensive to those who have gone through these same struggles? My thoughts: I think you’ve got to do the only thing you can to grab the audience. In a world where some simple movie about a little girl popping out of tv screens and killing people in seven days doesn’t scare people, you have to think up of anything that will attract an audience. So James Frey did just that. He wrote a memoir loosely based on his life and added some zings and twists just to shake the world. And no matter how much a person can disapprove, it worked. I mean look at it; Oprah was even duped to believing this really happened. Lies, no matter how false can always be turned into truth. It’s just the way a writer utilizes his words. And now look at him. His books might be banned from book outlets, but the money is still reeling in. People will probably talk about how James Frey was able to fool the great Oprah.
All this talk about truth and lies brings up the issue with another true liar or shall I say a real writer. A young man by the name J.T. Leroy confesses his true story. He was a teenage hustler, but not in the Cassidy sense. His mother pimped him out for money at truck stops, he was introduced to drugs, sex, and the wildest of lives in his childhood. Rescued by a therapist at the age of 13 or 14, Leroy wrote his first book Sarah based on the story of his real mother. The book was notably followed by his other big book The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, which is now a movie starring Asia Argento. All this information didn’t just come to me one night. I did my research after watching the gripping trailer for the movie. There was something about that trailer that really grabbed me, and it was the fact that J.T. Leroy doesn’t really exist.
I sat at my desk with my jaw on the ground. “He isn’t real?” I couldn’t believe it for the life of me. I had to look up the truth and with my researching expertise, the truth was revealed. J.T. Leroy was not real. He wasn’t even a man! The New York Times writes, “the public role of JT Leroy is played by Savannah Knoop, Geoffrey Knoop’s half sister, who is in her mid-20’s.” The public figure, that means there must be a writer who writes all of his/her novels. Although suspicions lead towards Geoffrey Knoop’s partner, Laura Albert, according to my research she’s still undiscovered. Now, if the world has to hate one man, it should be Leroy. Frey lied about his truth, but Leroy doesn’t even breathe. And oddly enough, this information is revealed after the revelation about Frey’s book. Suddenly, it’s like the world was after any writer with a past. Can you say that this is the truth? Is it possible that the truth is so boring that Frey and Leroy had to create these personas in order to grab the audience?
I read these books and I’m enraptured by their words. Frey might not have been completely true about his drug addiction, his trips to prison and the death of his girlfriend, but at least he’s got the guts to talk about whatever is true. If I had a complicated past like that, I would keep it hush hush. I would categorize my book as fiction and deny it ever happening to me. “Years of research,” I would tell my fans if they asked about the book. Truth doesn’t have the same connotation as it did in the past. Truth was even hard for Gandhi to find in the east with non-violent resistance. Maybe the truth for Gandhi was that you can never stop violence. It’s just a part of us. If that was the truth, then Gandhi was just lying to himself. I’m probably lying to you now, but you wouldn’t know. I’m a writer. I write the stories, you read them, and you judge whether it’s truth or not. How does one person like Oprah determine what is truth and what is absurdity. So Oprah was lied to. She had Tom Cruise jump on her couch. I would question his truths over Frey’s.
If U.S. presidential candidates were rock bands they’d be…
Here’s where we think the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates stack up if they were a band headlining a 2020 music fest
We still have a long, long, long way to go until the 2020 U.S. presidential election — and the list of candidates seems to get a bit longer every day. So, how do you actually keep track of who’s who? Let’s try turning it into a soundtrack.
Admittedly, the list runs too long to actually break down all of those candidates (there are 20+ actually running in the Democratic primary, though several are polling close to zero percent), so we’ve focused in on the folks who are actually showing a bit of buzz in the polls. Plus, of course, the incumbent who is currently president. From hip-hop to corporate rock and everything else in-between, here’s where we think the current crop of would-be presidents stack up if they were a band headlining a 2020 music fest.
Joe Biden: The Rolling Stones
Uncle Joe has been a fixture of American politics for decades, and he’s launched failed bids for president over the past few decades. But with 2020 in sight, Biden is — by far — the most popular Democratic candidate on the ballot. He’s leading most polls by a mile, thanks in large part to the good will he accumulated as President Obama’s vice-president and a solid legislative record (though it does have some troublesome bits in there, too). But, pretty much everyone sees him as likable, solid and — keyword here — “electable.” Translating that to music, Biden feels like The Rolling Stones of this election cycle. Most everybody likes The Stones, from your granddaddy to your aunts and uncles. They also run pretty high on a bunch of those lists of the best band ever. They’re a solid bet, and pop in just about any Stones record, and you’re bound to get something pretty darn good. Sure, it can get a bit worn at times, but even after all these decades, it’s still good stuff.
Bernie Sanders: Big Star
Bernie has been around the scene for decades, much like Biden, but despite the name recognition he’s still not polling as well as Biden. He was huge in the last primary running against Hillary Clinton, and briefly hailed as the Next Big Thing for a while there. He also introduced some forward-thinking policy ideas, many of which have been adopted by a bevy of candidates now running against him this time around. Take that resume to the music world, and Bernie feels a whole lot like Big Star. The Memphis-based rock band burst onto the scene in the early 1970s, and sadly flamed out not long after. Much like Bernie, it took a while for folks to really latch onto just how great Big Star was at the time. They found a cult following a few years later in the 1980s, and went on to influence pretty much every decent band that’s formed ever since. That said, there are still plenty of people who still love and appreciate Big Star to this day. But, they’ll never be as big as bands like the Stones, or The Beatles.
Elizabeth Warren: Radiohead
Elizabeth Warren is a smart, smart candidate. Of the folks vying for the Democratic candidacy, she arguably has the best ideas and platform concepts laid out in detail. Oddly enough, she’s also polling well below folks like Biden and Sanders. Turning to music, she feels like the Radiohead of this election. She’s smart, probably one of the smartest if not the smartest candidate out there. That feels a lot like Radiohead, an indie band that puts out some clever music and has developed a strong, loyal fanbase with their excellent output (a lot like Warren has these past few years).
Kamala Harris: Tupac
This may seem a bit obvious, considering Harris has spoken publicly about her affinity for Tupac’s music, but hear us out. Much like Tupac, Harris has some OG bona fides. Before running for the senate she served as a district attorney and attorney general in California, leading an up-tick in the conviction rate for homicides and overall felonies. She also took on hate crimes during that time. As a senator, she’s taken full advantage of her DA roots to ask the smart, hard questions — without backing down. She has guts, much like Tupac did. Tupac also has a ton of name recognition, something Harris is quickly working to acquire as the campaign heats up.
Pete Buttigieg: Conor Oberst
As a city mayor in Indiana, Buttigieg has exploded onto the scene as a bit of a wunderkind candidate over the past few months. He’s young, smart, energetic and almost always knows the right thing to say when the moment comes. He comes off as accessible and fresh, much like the Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst has during his career. Sure, Oberst’s output has always been a bit niche, but if it’s your flavor it’s fantastic stuff. Buttigieg has had much the same kind of run in the lead-up to the primary. In certain circles, he’s quickly becoming a buzzy, respected voice. But, ask random folks on the street, and odds are they have no idea about Mayor Pete. That said, Oberst has always had the potential to blow out the Top 40 with a chart-topper — and Buttigieg is in the hunt to do much the same in the presidential race.
Beto O’Rourke: Foss (just kidding, Weezer)
The handsome, punk rock candidate from Texas became a national sensation when he gave Ted Cruz a scare — but ultimately lost. So, he used that buzz to launch a presidential bid. He’s had some missteps, but there’s no doubt O’Rourke is a tall, charismatic dude. He was also literally in the little-known punk band called Foss back in the day, but we won’t go with that one. Instead, O’Rourke feels more like the Weezer of this election. He’s the dude bro, and is largely popular in a broad, thoughtless, “Oh It’s On The Radio So Just Listen To It And Idly Tap Your Toe” kind of way. Weezer is sometimes the butt of jokes (like that run SNL skit), but they’re still huge — and Beto has much that same kind of potential
Donald Trump: Kid Rock
Time for the big, loud Commander-in-Chief himself. Trump isn’t refined, he’s not all that bright, and he typically just beats you over the head with whatever he’s saying. Kind of like one of his biggest supporters and golf buddies, Kid Rock. He appeals to a certain conservative type of redneck, which is where most of his popularity lies (that applies to both of ‘em, to be clear). There’s also the fact that, if you actually listen to what he says, it’s typically really stupid and nonsensical. We’re just waiting for the presidential radio edit.
Editor’s Note: To be clear, this is all meant in good fun. The presidential race in 2020 looks to be one of the most contentious and important in the modern history of the United States. It’s a big deal, and everyone should take it very, very seriously. But, between all that seriousness, there should be a bit of space to have some fun musing about the folks who want to lead the free world.
Make Dodgeball Great Again
Dodgeball is not an ‘unethical tool of oppression’ and to label it so is both ludicrous and dangerous. Have we lost our minds?
I remember it as if it was yesterday. The recently completed gym floor was crisp, clean, and squeaked with almost every step of the overpriced sneakers that graced it. Battle lines had been drawn and there I was, locked and loaded in the far right corner of the gym. I had scanned the battlefield ahead, and saw that the opposition numbers were dwindling- falling like the cannon fodder they were. My fellow combatants were more than capable, some in fact, excelled like this game was art, like it was real battle.
Then I saw my target, arms to her side, nervously looking across from her side of diminishing numbers. Her eyes screamed ‘fear’ (or maybe indifference, but in my mind, it was fear) and I knew that there was only one thing to do. I gripped the foam of the ball with a vengeful firmness, loaded my arm with the fury of a Nolan Ryan fastball and let loose. My memory says the sound of the noisy gym was broken, and that all the fellow combatants and fallen brethren fell silent, stopped and followed this one moment as the ball left my hand to its intended destination. It was a glorious moment. Glorious because unlike most times, the ball flew through the air with unmatched grace. Unlike most times I threw the ball, there was no deviation, no broken flight plan. And unlike most times, where I’d luckily hit my target on the leg, or on the arm, it zeroed in with laser-like precision and exploded itself right in Annie’s* face. Bullseye. Like a bird exploding from a Randy Johnson fastball.
Did I revel in the glory of that standstill moment? Was the brazen destruction of a fellow combatant as cinematically award-winning as a Spielberg movie? The truth is, that wasn’t the case. Amongst the fleeting chaos of the game, no one saw. No one stopped and watched my moment, and that in reality, it was a split second that remains animated only in mind. I recoiled in shock, partly because it was not my intention to hit someone in the face, no matter how unintentionally glorious it was. But partly because my gut instinct was to slink away into the back of the pack to hide unseen- like a cowardly saboteur responsible for the wreckage, eager to hide from the blame. I didn’t even look back at what I had done.
I don’t remember who won this particular game (safe to say it wasn’t Annie), but it was all part and parcel to the wonderful school-time game of dodgeball.
One that has come under scrutiny, and under the threat, by the researchers discussed in this National Post article, who have labeled it an “unethical tool of oppression”. With such hyperbole, you’d think they were talking about a population who lived under a military dictatorship, or a segment of that population threatened during mass rioting. Not surprisingly, I lived through both of the latter, and no, dodgeball is nothing like either. They are talking about dodgeball- a mostly harmless game (unless you are Annie) played by children during recess and PE class.
The article goes on to say how dodgeball, along with other forms of games played during PE class are sports of “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation” and that dodgeball in particular, is “not just unhelpful to the development of kind and gentle children who will become decent citizens of a liberal democracy. It is actively harmful to this process.” Sounds like it was written by someone picked last in gym class.
We can argue endlessly about the participation-trophy culture that has permeated the discourse of children’s sports (they couldn’t even settle on a winner at the Spelling Bee). But the truth is, I fear greatly for the future of democracy if we equate the game of dodgeball to actual, real oppression. Sure, Annie probably doesn’t like dodgeball all that much, but I too was hit plenty on the dodgeball court. Like I was on the basketball court. But it’s all part of growing some thick skin in this very real world where people don’t throw soft, red balls at you. The truth is, most kids would probably benefit from getting hit in the face with a dodgeball a few times, it’ll be good for them in the long run. This I’m certain of.
I had a lot of fun playing dodgeball as a kid. It’s an absolute shame that there are “scholars” and “researchers” who equate it to very real life issues this world faces. Teaching kids that life isn’t fair from a young age is a good thing. Participation-trophy culture is not. I don’t need a Ph.D. to know so.
Dodgeball teaches you a great deal in a simple game. And if dodgeball supposedly teaches children lessons of democracy, then I sure as hell would want the future leaders of whatever world we venture towards to be able to dodge a wrench when someone throws one at their heads.
*Annie is not her real name. C’mon, how much of an asshole do you think I am?