Shaken to life by a loving sunbeam this morning, I awoke with the inclination that today would be different. Today, I would stumble upon that intangible thing I have so desperately been looking all these years. A tall order, of course — perhaps one I was far too ready to accept. One that I should have known would prove to be, just like each and every one of my dreams, an impossibility. Early on in the workday, I grabbed hold of what just might have been the key to this new wave — a piece of monumental, stirring, transcendental poetry penned by the unlikeliest of sources: Shia LaBeouf. A dark, albeit life-affirming adage written by the 26-year-old actor in an effort to illustrate to Alec Baldwin, and the world, the true definition of manhood.
A poem that nearly changed my life.
A poem that took me on a journey through and beyond the very fabrics of the reality we've come to accept as our universe.
A poem that, as I now know, was plagiarized.
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Let's back up a bit. It was announced on Wednesday that LaBeouf would be leaving the cast of the Broadway play Orphan just over a month prior to its April debut, in which he was set to star opposite Baldwin and actor Tom Sturridge (it was announced Thursday that LaBeouf has been replaced by actor Ben Foster). E! reported the standard "creative differences" spiel via LaBeouf's rep, leaving us to surmise that it might have been any one of the usual issues — money, scheduling, the actor's sudden realization that there weren't actually any alien robots in this play — that led to his departure.
But following the revelation, we got wind of a new amendment to the story, rooting LaBeouf's choice to leave in a mysterious feud upheld with costar Baldwin. LaBeouf braved the oceans of Twitter to post the following pair of emails. First LaBeouf tweeted a reasonably coherent message from Baldwin to LaBeouf, but then he revealed the real the coup de grâce: LaBeouf's initial apology to Baldwin, a poetric triumph destined to launch any daring reader upon a mind-boggling adventure to new levels of conscious thought. LaBeouf writes:
My dad was a drug dealer. He was a shit human. What I know of men Alec is-A man is good at his job. Not his work, not his avocation, not his hobby. Not his career. His job.A man can look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, he makes you. From your suitcase, from your watch, from your posture. A man infers.A man owns up. That's why Mark McGwire is not a man. A man grasps his mistakes. He lays claim to who he is, and what he is, and whether he likes them or not.Some mistakes, though, he lets pass if no one notices. Like dropping the steak in the dirt.He does not rely on rationalizations or explanations. He doesn't winnow, winnow, winnow until truths can be humbly categorized, or intellectualized, until behavior can be written off without an explanation.A man knows his tools and how to use them — just the ones he needs. Knows which saw is for what, how to find the stud.A man does not know everything. He doesn't try. He likes what other men know.A man can tell you he was wrong. That he did wrong. That he planned to.He can tell you when he is lost. He can apologize, even if sometimes it's just to put an end to the bickering.Alec, I'm sorry for my part of a dis-agreeable situation.Shia
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Following my initial read-through of the bonkers diatribe, I reflected upon my very state of being. I have experienced a wide variety of emotions in my 24 years as a human (and brief six-month stint as a cutlery vendor). I've known sorrows so deep they'd rival the Mariana Trench, joys so high as to call envy from the Himalayan Vulture. But a new wave of feelings overtook me upon reading LaBeouf's email. I couldn't just sit on this spiritual awakening, but I knew that the world would better deserve thoughts far and beyond that of which I was capable. So, to Gchat I ventured.
I contacted every academic I know — literary analysts, editors, English teachers, college professors, playwrights, novelists, publishers, screenwriters. I promised each a venue to showcase his or her penchant for the written word: an article delving into the poetic merit and psycholoanalytical substance of LaBeouf's writing. I staked my reputation on this post. It was going to be my big break.
But then, midway through my Internet forays, Jezebel broke the news that LaBeouf had not written the poem himself. He plagiarized it from a 2009 Esquire essay by Tom Chiarella.
And to be honest, we should have known. It's not like there weren't clues. For instance, the stolen portion of the email — beginning with the second line, "A man is as good as his job," and ending with "just to put an end to the bickering" — is perfectly sound in terms of grammar and punctuation, and yet it is sandwiched between introductory and conclusive sentences that would earn a third grade student a stern, red-inked "See Me!" The use of words like "avocation" seems far from the reach of the Transformers star. The mention of Mark McGwire feels particularly anachronistic.
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So yes, we should have known. We just wanted to believe. I wanted to believe. I just wanted to feel like the universe was not confined to the stagnant observations in which I've been festering for more than two decades. I wanted to create something to make others feel the way LaBeouf had made me feel, channeling the talented cohorts I had acquired over the years to result in something wholly invaluable. I wanted this to mean something.
But instead, we're left with the same murky, dilapidated, old reality — one filled with lying actors and average Esquire poems that seem entirely less inspiring when you know that an actual writer wrote them. Life, once again, is meaningless.
And while we're really no worse off than we were yesterday, we've been teased with the perilous idea of false hope. We're thrown back into the drawer of knives that is our day-to-day. We're in pain, we're restless, we're alone.
And it's all because of Shia LaBeouf. As we all imagined it someday would be.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
[Photo Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images]
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It seemed unlikely after the network spent a decade muddling around in fourth place, but NBC is on top. That's right, the network has been, for the moment, at the top of the ratings block in the 18-49 demographic for the past two weeks, thanks to The Voice, Revolution's spectacular debut ratings (11.7 million viewers), and better-than-expected numbers for both The New Normal and Go On. Only time will tell if NBC can keep this up, and as other networks begin to roll out premieres in the last week of September and throughout October, competition will get steep. But for now, NBC is enjoying the fruits of their labors that began during the London Olympics. They deserve a pat on the back for the moment.
Now, the last time NBC was on top, before the network slowly started to lose its ratings grip in late 2000, the world was a very different place. And, seeing the Peacock gain such traction, we can't help but remember back to the old days. Back to the time of Must See TV and, yes, Ross and Rachel. Back to a time when Kelsey Grammer was Frasier, and not the outspoken actor who dumped a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills. Back to 1999.
And in case you aren't just swelling with memories of 1999, we've painted a glossy picture of what it was like back then:
Bill Clinton was still the P.O.T.U.S... and he'd survived that whole Monica Lewinsky thing. Almost.
Brad Pitt and Jen Aniston were still a couple.
Pierce Brosnan was James Bond.
We didn't have iPods yet. They were introduced in 2001. It was all about the Discman, you guys.
Britney Spears was an incredible dancer.
AOL Instant Messenger away messages were our Facebook status updates, but with neon colors and lots of this: *~~OmGgGgG!~~*
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were embroiled in a Home Run Record race. And McGuire hadn't yet been outed for steroids.
The PlayStation 1 was a technological revelation.
*NSync vs. Backstreet Boys was a hot-button debate. (And Backstreet was the wrong choice. [Ed. WRONG, Ramen Hair.])
Pokemon was just about the coolest thing ever.
We all knew the lyrics to "Nookie."
American Pie was somewhat of a sexual awakening.
There were only three Pixar movies: Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2.
We thought the Y2K bug was real and that it could possibly end civilization, but we still spent our time looking for these ridiculous glasses.
Jar Jar Binks began ruining lives in Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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We live in a simulacra culture. Everything is fake, a fraud, a sham. There is absolutely nothing to believe in anymore. That was just reinforced last night when Lance Armstrong, a national hero who fought through cancer to repeatedly win the Tour de France, decided to stop fighting the doping charges against him. In the eyes of many (including the USADA), that is an admission of guilt. Stopping the fight against the allegations he took steroids is saying that his seemingly superhuman accomplishments were just that — that a real human could not possibly overachieve.
And that's the problem with any sort of accomplishment today. When anyone achieves anything of note, we can't believe it actually happened. We're a culture of skeptics, raised on cynicism and disappointment — even the man who inspired us to live strong is peered at with millions of side-eyes.
But our skepticism is understandable. This is the age of Photoshop, during which the bodies and faces of celebrities are morphed into something different, something unattainable. This is the age of AutoTune, where every single is so massaged with computers, we don't know if we're hearing Britney Spears or some robot interpreting her. This is the age of digital effects, when the images we see in movies are sculpted into magic. Nothing is real anymore. When we see an amazing photograph or scene in a movie, we aren't filled with wonder, but with curiosity as to which program digital engineers used to make it out of thin air. The very fabric of our reality is torn. When we see something that is supposedly documented in real life on a reality show, most times people don't believe that it happened. When everyone watches The Hills knowing it's a sham, how are we supposed to believe that even the crabs at the bottom of the Bering Sea are real on The Deadliest Catch? Just how does that show fake nature? (I like to think it doesn't, but you never know.) Even a show as beloved and mundane as House Huntershas been proven to be completely concocted for the cameras.
But our skepticism has bled beyond on-screen action. Not only do we believe celebrity relationships are a stunt for ratings or a pre-planned PR effort — hey, Taylor Swift does need more material for her songs — but we're becoming skeptical of nearly every star athlete in sports, an arena in which we esteemed people for their actual accomplishments, for their dedication, discipline, training, and God-given talent. The days in which we compared athletes like Michael Jordan to mythical gods are over — Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco made sure of that. (As did eventual tabloid reports that Jordan participated in illicit affairs.) And Lance Armstrong's scandal, which involves one of the most inspiring and beloved sports figure of the early 2000s, could prove to be the nail in that coffin. If the rampant steroid use doesn't destroy all the heroes in professional sports, than the increasted media attention certainly will. It's hard to stomach the prowess of Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, or Ben Roethlisbergerwhen you know that there is serial cheating, animal cruelty, or alleged rape off the field.
We simply can't believe anything we see anymore. Even when we find a hero (or think we do), we can't hold on to him (or her) for long. The only thing that's real anymore is our longing for something that is authentic – and that's because no one is giving it to us.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo credit: Wenn.com]
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