- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

‘That guy’

“For example, remember that guy in college who never shut up about his big, crazy theories? Remember how he would always pull you into the most rambling, preposterous debates imaginable, because his lack of basic logic paired with his belief in the most absurd and patently impossible things created a gigantic conversational black hole from which there was no easy escape, particularly while stoned?

“Well, there’s no need to fret any longer about how that guy probably ended up on food stamps or in some homeless shelter somewhere, babbling endlessly about how Belize has the atom bomb or old pillows are made primarily of dead skin or daycare workers in Minnesota were caught feeding crack-laced brownies to infants. Thanks to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, co-creators of ‘The Office’ and ‘Extras,’ that guy and those of his ilk are finally being celebrated for the demented idiot savants that they are.

“You see, that guy, whose name in this case is Karl Pilkington, was assigned to be Merchant and Gervais’ producer at XFM. Once they got to know Pilkington, though, they realized that they had to share him with the world, so they molded their entire podcast around him in 2005 for the Guardian. Now that podcast has been animated and transformed into HBO’s ‘The Ricky Gervais Show.’ ”

Heather Havrilesky, writing on ” ‘The Ricky Gervais Show’: Here’s to the soft, the dumb, the lazy,” at her Salon.com blog on Feb. 20

Fame as art

“But there is a less antiquated and reproachful perspective on celebrity — one that may help explain why Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and now the new and revised Tiger Woods seem so embedded in the national consciousness.

“In this view, celebrity isn’t an anointment by the media of unworthy subjects, even though it may seem so when you think of minor celebs such as Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, or Levi Johnston, or the gate-crashing Salahis. It is actually a new art form that competes with — and often supersedes — more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays, and TV shows (and the occasional golf tournament), and that performs, in its own roundabout way, many of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: among them, distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition, and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community. I would even argue that celebrity is the great new art form of the 21st century.”

Neal Gabler, writing on “The Greatest Show on Earth” in the Dec. 21 issue of Newsweek

Gold at last

“On Sunday, American Bode Miller won his first Olympic gold medal — 12 years after his Olympic debut and four years after his washout in Turin. Finally, Miller’s Olympic performance matched his potential. How that happened is a lesson for young people everywhere. …

“[Miller] is the most accomplished American alpine skier in history. … Though not a household name in the rest of the country, he is in New Hampshire. Here, he is known as a free spirit, to put a friendly spin on it. Critics say he’s an immature party boy who never grew up. Miller’s parents are reputed to have been ‘60s free spirits themselves … it is axiomatic around New Hampshire that discipline was not something Bode Miller knew well growing up — or as a young man. Which explains much of Miller’s troubled history. …

“Then, last October, calmer and yearning for Olympic gold, he returned to the team. Some who know him say becoming a father made him more responsible. His little girl is two years old this month. Some think he’s just aged and realized that this was his last chance to medal in the Olympic games. … All of this means, simply, that hard work and discipline matter, even in the world of athletics, where raw physical ability would seem to be paramount. Miller worked hard to become the world champion skier he has been for years. But at times, when he lost focus, he failed. He finally won Olympic gold this year, and thus lived up to his tremendous potential, by clearing his head of distractions and working hard on achieving his goal.”

Andrew Cline, writing on “Bode Miller’s Life Lesson,” on Feb. 23 at the American Spectator


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