Monday, July 02, 2007

Spirit Corrupted and Set Free - Los Angeles, Summer 2007

This last week, a series of articles reveals the ruptures and profound crises afflicting our society. Christine Buckley's LA Weekly cover story, "Aaron Cohen: Sex Slaves, Drug Trade and Rock n' Roll" reveals the dark, insidious underside of globalization (link). Buckley writes:
American school kids are taught that slavery was wiped out with the Confederacy in 1865. But today it is a mounting international menace — the dark side, many believe, of globalization and the Internet explosion. Not to be confused with smuggling (which is always transnational and includes those who consent to the process), human trafficking implies the use of force, fraud or coercion and often involves ongoing exploitation. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, it is tied with the illegal-arms industry as the second largest illegal business in the world, after drug dealing.
Aaron Cohen, an ex-Jewish water polo student, Air Force school drop-out, hob-knobs with Hollywood celebrities - the George Clooneys, Laura Bickfords, Brad Pitts - and looks into the valley of the beast, the dark, hidden alleyways that you and I drive by everyday in Los Angeles (or skip in the back of The LA Weekly).

The LA Times Sport section yesterday features a duo of disturbing stories related in distinct, yet subtle ways. Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun wrote a insightful commentary on the tragic death of Chris Benoit, the wrestling star who murdered his wife and child, then hung himself (link). Sam Farmer wrote an intersting piece updating the poor-old, ex-Trojan, still pretty boy, Matt Leinart's saga in Phoenix (link):
Leinart found an even more frenzied interest in his private life once he arrived in Arizona. All eyes seemed to be on him — and not just those of traditional football fans hoping he could help turn around the perennially moribund Cardinals.

'Girls were talking about it left and right,' said Megan Finnerty, who covers the club scene for the Arizona Republic. 'It's not like there aren't good-looking men in Phoenix, but when you're picked as one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people, that's a huge endorsement.'

When Leinart arrived on the scene last year, Finnerty wrote an article headlined, 'Diagraming a Play for Cards' Sexy QB,' a guide for local women on how best to land Leinart as a boyfriend.

Leinart has a foot in two worlds — the public he accepts as a highly paid performer for an NFL team and private moments for which he yearns.

He says he moved into a gated community here about a 20-minute drive from Cardinals headquarters in an effort to preserve some peace and quiet. He felt too exposed in his first house, where twice his truck was stripped of its wheels, and once he looked in from his backyard pool to find an uninvited woman rooting through his kitchen cabinets.

'I was in my pool swimming with my dog, and I could see her through the windows,' Leinart said. 'I got out and said, 'Do you normally go in the house of somebody you don't know?' She was about 50, and I was like, that's some nerve to walk in somebody's house. I just told her to leave.'

That he wants some privacy doesn't mean Leinart always shies from the spotlight.

He threw a birthday bash last month that included a pool party at the luxury Mondrian Scottsdale Hotel, which was attended by Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens and several members of the Phoenix Suns, who had been eliminated from the NBA playoffs the night before.
Blue Mandy grew up with punks like Leinart, just in the water, playing water polo, and always wanting to learn surfing. What a Trojan tool.

Someone should force all Trojan athletes to read Buckley's piece, watch all the documentaries she referenced and others on the human sex trade. Hollywood glamorizes and fetishizes young, nubile bodies; USC provides the city with a plantation full of great sporting events, gardened for by a immigration underclass and alums/the public eat this up.

A years worth of graduate school paints a picture of society rupturing under the global forces of celebrity, scandal, sex, immigration, terrorism and the international drug trade. After studying with Manuel Castells and Cory Doctorow, it's easy to see these connections, and even more obvious to see that most people don't.

“There’s something so powerful about trying to bring light into the dark places,” Buckley quotes Lisa Miller, who made a documentary focusing on Cambodia and human slavery. “But we’re all trying to heal ourselves at the same time. So when you take it on, it can take you down.” What are the costs of silences and action? Walker returns to the same question. American audiences satiate their thirst for blood right in front of our eyes, channeled through media lust:
As a culture, we've decided that consenting adults are allowed to push themselves past safe limits for our entertainment and their reward. Drug testing and better medical care and safety precautions can lessen many of these risks but cannot stamp them out.

I don't know about you, but when a boxer loses his life in the ring or a football player is crippled or a wrestler turns up dead in his hotel room, I feel complicit.

If I know these acts are so destructive, why do I watch? Do I simply lack the moral fortitude to look past my desire to be entertained? I fear the answer is yes.

In the last few days, scores of wrestling fans have said on message boards that Benoit's death will kill their love of the spectacle. Many more have said that one man's deranged acts shouldn't end an art loved by so many. I agree with the latter and yet, I wonder.
So when Blue Mandy stumbles across something like this, it's worth sharing, courtesy of The New York Times wedding section:
On June 23, Ms. Roter and Mr. Stodel married under a wedding canopy entwined with white orchids beneath a cinematically cloudy sky at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif. During the ceremony, Rabbi Melissa Buyer paused when a passing helicopter interrupted the traditional seven Jewish wedding blessings and said: 'Let’s wait. This is important.'

Moments later, a pair of brown pelicans flew by in the easy, unconscious tandem of a veteran couple on a stroll.
Wow. But how many of us take the time to look and listen to the tranquil sights and sounds of birds in flight?

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