Think Piece’d: Fame, Empathy & Pain

“Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive.”

Kim Etheredge was the publicist for, then Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Terrell Owens and she was trying to put out fires. Days earlier she found Owens non-responsive after taking painkillers, and now she was faced with convincing the sports world he hadn’t attempted suicide. Where she went to make, that argument was the amount of money Terrell’s contract with the Cowboys was worth. While she thought it was a good defense, it is a problematic correlation people make all the time.

When we see celebrities, athletes, musicians, and other entertainers we often see people far beyond us. These people seem to have everything we want, and thus we don’t see any reason why they would be depressed, or have any struggles in life. It’s as if reaching a level of fame strips away the humanity that they inherently possess because they do something that puts them on the world stage.

I remember when the story broke people made light of Owens and whether he was depressed. It became another red flag for people who never shared a moment of time with him. Another talking point for sports radio, and the endless parade of gas bags presented by ESPN or whatever network decided to cover the incident. This mocking doesn’t stop with TO but touches upon anyone who falls short of perfection while in the spotlight.

A few weeks ago, First Take star Stephen A. Smith ranted about Phil Jackson’s failures as the New York Knicks’ President of Basketball Operations. These televised tantrums are so expected from Smith that they are the reason he is one of the biggest personalities on ESPN. What drew the most attention to this rant wasn’t Phil Jackson, but where he went next:

Smith attempted to soften the blow by saying how much he loved Odom and was praying for a full recovery. That love doesn’t lessen the insensitivity of the mention. It makes it worse because that love should allow a friend, or family member, to see the humanity of the one who is hurting. But as I know firsthand that’s not how things often work.

Two weeks ago, Lamar Odom shared his story on the Player’s Tribune. He walked the reader through the death of his mother, his introduction to cocaine, the death of his six-month-old son, the deep darkness he fell into, and how his children are helping pull him through. It was a brave, and raw account of his struggles that we don’t often get to see. He went as far as to acknowledge how he still wanted to get high despite knowing it wasn’t what was best for him.

The major through line of Odom’s piece was how you can’t run away from your pain. It doesn’t mean that you must succumb to it, but if not addressed it will exist right around the corner. A successful career, recognition, accomplishments, or monetary gains don’t cover that. It’s an obvious thing to say, but in the west (and especially in America) we can focus on the external and hope that it will change how we feel inside.

We see the star and say, “if I had that much money I wouldn’t have any problems.” This thinking completely overlooks the fact that everyone has issues. Depression is real, and it isn’t a weakness. Pain doesn’t have a price or success threshold. That is the major point of note here.

In 2017, we saw both Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington take their own lives. The news sent their fans into deep mourning. To realize someone who helped them through their own struggles carried a burden so heavy that they chose to end their own lives allowed people to see their humanity. To realize how their fame, success, and notoriety wasn’t enough to erase whatever pain they were carrying.

The news of those losses was met with, almost, universal acknowledgment of the tragedy that suicide is. People responded by posting statuses mourning and sharing the number for the suicide hotline. Yet, if they struggled and weren’t open about what they were fighting against we would see more harsh criticisms lobbed their way.

When looking at celebrities and how we relate to their struggles there is a greater lesson to be learned about how we deal with people in our own lives. That we’re all facing something, and just because it isn’t our struggle doesn’t deny the heft of the cross they carry. That a new job, a raise in income, new friends, graduation, relationship, or location doesn’t suddenly cleanse what is going on inside of us. That while no one is happy all day (and happiness shouldn’t be the goal), we should seek help when we need it and not feel afraid that people will use it as a mark against us.

This isn’t all to say that there is nothing good that comes from the outside but it could just be a layer of paint over mildew.

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Music: June Marieezy & FKJ

The weekend is right around the corner.

If you close your eyes you can see yourself running out of the office doors and into the weekend. But when you open them there is an immediate disappointment that there are a couple more days left in your week.

So instead of daydreaming, I figured I could share a song that currently has me stuck and give you a little break from your work day.

Today, I’m sharing an impromptu track by FKJ and June Marieezy (two artists I discovered through Spotify) recorded in Red Bull Studios Amsterdam. If you hear this and can only play it once, or it doesn’t transport you to some place nice you and I aren’t the same.

How much longer will NFL reign?

For as long as I’ve watched sports the NFL has been king.

Once we entered the dog days of summer there was the sound of pads crunching in the distance. The countdown for training camp was underway and we would be inundated with football talk. There was an excitement crackling from each city that had their own team for they believed that this could be their season.

The stranglehold seemed to only grow stronger with the advent of the 24/7 news cycle and social media. We weren’t only inundated by talking heads over-analyzing everything, but we were also in a sea of sports opinions by everyone who had access to the internet.

Now, I’m not here to say that NFL is no longer the most popular sports league in America. The Hall of Fame game was on Thursday and drew 7.8 million overnight viewers which was more than most NBA and MLB playoff games. A pre-season game drew more eyes than the other major sports (admittedly the NBA playoffs were terrible, and baseball is terrible in general) that alone is proof that the NFL won’t be falling off its perch anytime soon.

So why am I making this post? On Friday morning, the driver of sports talk was still the NBA. One week into August, and we were still talking about a league that saw its season end over a month prior. We are in an offseason that featured Western Conference moving heaven and Earth to make moves that will make them lose closer series to the Golden State Warriors. A Summer League that saw Lonzo Ball reignite excitement in a starving Los Angeles Lakers fan base. Just when the boil started to slow the news broke that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded.

The Kyrie news helped reignite the excitement behind a potential Carmelo trade which shed light on the fact that LeBron James most likely won’t be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The league with the biggest stars, biggest personalities, and the best game play of the big three sports was now encroaching on the NFL portion of the calendar.

The NBA also has something that the NFL desperately wants, but will never have. International popularity. Basketball is a game that is played by the world. Football is a game played by Americans (with a few exceptions). This exposure worldwide opens up the NBA to a greater audience in another area as well: online.

Earlier this year, the NBA surpassed the NFL in subscribers on Reddit.

That’s not all look at these other numbers:

  • Twitter: NFL – 23.8 million followers| NBA – 26.1 million followers
  • Youtube: NFL – 2.1 million followers | NBA –   7.9 million followers
  • Instagram: NFL – 9.7 million followers | NBA – 24.3 million followers

What this advantage digitally also reveals is that the NBA audience skews younger than the NFL. The average NFL fan is 50. The average NBA fan is 42. 11% of NBA viewers are between the ages of 2-17 compared to 9% of the NFL’s (side note: both have consistently seen dips in youth popularity over past decade).

Coinciding with all of this is that the NBA is having its highest rated Finals since Michael Jordan was winning championships with the Chicago Bulls.

The NFL wears the crown, and it probably will for the foreseeable future. In the distance, the sound we hear is that of crossover dribbles, and screeching sneakers.

The NBA got next. The only question is: when?

Breakfast at Timothy’s #19

In 2013, I started a blog called Breakfast at Timothy’s.

The name was inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the classic film starring Audrey Hepburn, and the site itself featured music I loved and wasn’t ashamed of. When it comes to music I always believe that there should be no such thing as guilty pleasures. If you enjoy a song you should enjoy it without qualifications.

While I loved sharing songs, quotes, and writing about the music itself, my favorite part was the Breakfast at Timothy’s mixes I made. The goal behind the mixes was to share music I loved in one shot. They were intended to be little musical vacations in the listener’s day as they visited whatever place I decided to take them. The goal was never to be bigger than life, or even known, but to share my taste with those who were willing and open to venture into the world of pop.

Over the past three years the blog went away and the mix series went dormant. But now thanks to Spotify’s Discovery Recommendations the inspiration has returned and here is the 19th version.

Playlist:
1.) Lorine Chia, Blended Babies – I Just Want to Love You
2.) Glasses – Close to You
3.) Xavier Omar – Special Eyes
4.) Kelela – Rewind
5.) Tom Misch – South of the River
6.) Lipstick Gypsy – Infatuation
7.) Gavin Turek – Good Look for You
8.) Little Dragon – Sweet
9.) Tuxedo – Livin’ 4 Your Lovin’
10.) NAO – DYWM
11.) Leisure – Know You Better
12.) Joe Hertz, JONES – Simple
13.) Abby Diamond – Love to Watch You Leave
14.) Chairlift – Moth to the Flame
15.) Sinead Harnett – Rather Be With You
16.) Chris McClenney – Pearl

Below are the links to listen:
Mixcloud | Spotify |Download

Enjoy!

 

Home Cooking: Churro Cheesecake

I love to cook.

It’s not a secret, but not many people know that about me. Until three years ago, my sustenance relied on the cooking of others and take out . It was expensive, but it was easy, immediate, and it was all I was willing to know. So what changed?

Lin came home and uttered a simple phrase “I’m cooking the baby, you cook the food.” Prior to that moment, my list of culinary victories looked like this:

  • Hamburger
  • Sloppy Joe
  • Hot Dogs
  • Eggs
  • Pancakes
  • French Toast
  • Tacos

It was official, we were all going to die and it was going to be my fault. Irrational? Yes, but you have to understand that I had a grave fear of cooking because I didn’t know where to start. Now I was cooking for myself, my then soon to be wife, and the child that was “cooking” in her stomach. Next she gave me Pinterest, and then sent me on my way.

One of the things I learned by using Pinterest was that many of the recipes pinned were the creations of stay at home moms from Middle America. The problem? To lend credence to an old cliche: “they don’t season their food!” Following a recipe exactly resulted in flavorless chicken.

Over time, I learned to trust my hands as I experimented with different foods and began to learn which seasonings I liked (including an overwhelming reliance on lemon pepper). Three years in and I have, begrudgingly, earned the nickname “Chef Boyar-T” from Lin. While there is a pleasure in cooking to feed us, making something sweet is different. If cooking dinner is the 9 to 5 struggle making dessert is happy hour at the end of a hard week.

I’ve baked quite a few different things, but I always come back to the Churro Cheesecake. Why? It only has a few ingredients, the instructions are straight forward, and the taste. The taste isn’t quite something to die for but it is damned good. Due to the size of the dish used there will be a good amount of leftovers (as long as you don’t gorge yourself).

If you have sweet tooth, and a little bit of patience this is the perfect recipe. If you make it you might feel so confident that you’d bring it to a potluck as proof that you can slay a thing or two in the kitchen. But if you don’t have those aspirations make it for yourself. You will not regret it.

Ingredients

  • Two cans of Crescent Rolls (I prefer Pillsbury, but any kind can work)
  • Two 8 oz packages of Cream Cheese, softened.
  • One egg.
  • One cup sugar, divided.
  • Two tbsps ground cinnamon.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat together softened cream cheese, egg, and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. (If you have a hand mixer you might prefer to use that, but a spoon works just as well)
  3. Mix remaining sugar (1/2 cup) with cinnamon in a separate bowl.
  4. Grease 9 x 13 baking dish with either cooking spray, butter or whatever you have.
  5. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mix in the baking dish.
  6. Open one container of crescent rolls and lay the dough on top of cinnamon sugar in baking dish. Seal dough so that there are no creases.
  7. Spread cheesecake mixture evenly on top of dough.
  8. Unroll second container of crescent rolls and place on top of cheesecake mixture. Make sure that all seams are sealed so that there are no creases.
  9. Sprinkle rest of cinnamon sugar mix on top.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Notes

  • Recipe adapted from the Recipe Critic
  • The original recipe included 1 tsp of vanilla, and it was included in step 2. I never had to use it and the recipe has come out fine every time.

Fearing Writing

I used to love  LOVE writing.

Every moment I was at home from sixth grade to my senior year of high school, I sat in front of my computer and wrote. It wasn’t an obligation, but it was an action just as necessary as breathing. Words flew from my fingertips that didn’t need inspiration just a crease to jump through. I wasn’t making masterpieces, yet I found excitement as I paused and stared at the screen in awe of the world or the moment that spilled onto the monitor. It was something beyond me, something that I hadn’t created, it was something that I tapped into and was delivering to the world.

I would write as if no one was watching and I would share unfinished and typo filled work with world. There were no worries about being good, but when people noticed the improvement I felt a pride. But that pride or external response didn’t drive me. It was that love, that search for the next story or the next detail that was just around the corner. I reached a point where I stopped and looked around at what I was creating and I spoke aloud that I wanted to be a writer, and just like that everything changed.

I don’t write as regularly as I used to. In fact, I often don’t write at all. There are ideas that bounce inside of my head but they are often checked by the fear that I am not good enough. That I can’t do these ideas justice, or the fear of the grueling feeling writing has taken over the years. I became more Sisyphus than Icarus, and the thought of pushing the boulder up the hill was so daunting that I stopped.

Writing was a love that became past tense. That locked my creativity in chains and because it no longer felt good, I ran away from it. I didn’t see myself as a writer, and while I flirted with other forms of creativity they often lost their luster as well.

I still don’t find inspiration in external sources. Even when a former professor told me I was a writer, I couldn’t muster the courage to push through. I found external comparisons enough to stop me, and they would allow me to look back and regret what I never did.

I have ideas that I came up with over a decade ago that still haven’t seen the light of day. Ideas that came to me fully formed. I want to love to write again, but I don’t know if I can. The same way we can no longer recapture the innocence of our convictions as children when you see the way the world works.

I don’t believe I am a great writer but do I really have to be? What if I only write for me? Where could that possibly lead? These are the questions I think of when this topic comes up. Truth is the only way to see is by actually writing.

Lisa Stansfield – “Taken Around the World”

Lisa Stansfield, Taken, Liam Neeson, mashups, experimental video, comedy, funny

One of my favorite things about the early 90’s were music videos for songs from a soundtrack. A classic example of this is Case’ “Touch Me, Tease Me” which shoehorns clips from the Nutty Professor in the most hamfisted way imaginable. So in an attempt to recreate this phenomenon I decided to mashup Lisa Stansfield’s 1989 hit “All Around the World” with the 2008 Liam Neeson film Taken. The only thing that ties these two things together are the search for Stansfield’s and Neeson’s respective babies, but that’s fun right? Who really wants something that matches exactly? Not me. That’s who.