Dylan O’Brien’s First Time

October 2, 2012

Dylan O'Brien shirtlessDylan O’Brien’s movie The First Time, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, will be in theaters in very limited release on October 19th, 2012. The trailer is available on YouTube.

Dylan O’Brien shirtless

The movie is the story of two teenagers who meet at a party and find a connection. Over the course of a weekend, romance, complications, and fun ensue, as both fall in love and have sex for the first time.

Dylan O’Brien stars in the MTV series Teen Wolf as the character Stiles Stilinkski.

Paying Attention to the Hands Among Other Things

May 25, 2011

Jacob DowkerIn a video on YouTube titled “can you pay attention to my hands mister“, a young man uses American Sign Language to send a romantic message to his boyfriend about how he feels, and how he would like to express it in person.

In an article about the video in TÊTU, a French publication, Jacob (the man in the video) said that some of their friends and relatives were not completely enthusiastic about it. However, the majority of them were proud to be associated with him, seeing how successful the clip had become. The boyfriend Anthony’s take on the video is that it provides opportunities for many people to see what “gay love” really means.

Neither Anthony or Jacob is deaf. Anthony has an interest in languages, including ASL. When they first met, Anthony showed Jacob a little of how to sign. Concerning the signing in the video, Anthony explained that Jacob learned most of the signs he wanted to use from a book, in just a week’s time.

Read more about the video by Jacob Dowker.

Ryan Conklin And Serendipity

August 31, 2010

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin, of The Real World Brooklyn and An Angel From Hell fame, started class this week at Temple University in Philadelphia. What’s really cool for some of his fellow students is that in their pursuit of learning and a hopefully marketable degree, they will serendipitously find themselves in the same class as Ryan and without any effort get to meet and know Ryan Conklin first hand. A lot of them will never even have heard of him before and yet they will have the opportunity that a lot of long-time fans will never get.

There are probably more than a few people around the country who are in the category of being followers since the beginning, and who will never meet Ryan in person, who may understandably and enviously file this thought under the tag of “life sucks the major root”. However, I think it’s great for the lucky Temple students. I hope they make the most of the opportunity, if only for the people who won’t get the chance.

James Wolk In Lone Star On Fox

July 17, 2010

James WolkJames Wolk (the shirtless man seen at right), will be starring in a new drama series on Fox, titled Lone Star, "a provocative soap set against the backdrop of big Texas oil."

The summary of the show on Fox’s web site states, "ROBERT/ BOB ALLEN (newcomer James Wolk) is a charismatic and brilliant schemer who has meticulously constructed two lives in two different parts of Texas. He’s juggling two identities and two women in two very different worlds – all under one mountain of lies."

Well, James Wolk is not really a "newcomer". He appeared with much praise in the 2008 made-for-television movie Front of the Class (under the name Jimmy Wolk), in which he played a real-life teacher afflicted with Tourette Syndrome. It’s taken a little while, but now he’s back to heat up the screen.

Here is more of Fox’s description of the show:

As “Bob,” he lives in Houston and is married to CAT (Adrianne Palicki), the beautiful daughter of CLINT (Jon Voight), the patriarch of an ultra-wealthy Texas oil family. More than 400 miles away in the suburban west Texas town of Midland, he’s “Robert,” living a second life with his sweet, naïve girlfriend, LINDSAY (Eloise Mumford).

In Midland, he plays the perfect boyfriend while secretly bilking local investors of their savings. In Houston, he’s a devoted husband, charming Cat and her family to cement his position in the rich family business he aims to clean out.

Bob has lived both lives successfully for years without arousing any suspicions…so far. While one brother-in-law, DREW (Bryce Johnson), admires Bob, his other brother-in-law, TRAMMELL (Mark Deklin), is suspicious of his motives. Bob begins to fear his secret lives may unravel. With the cons closing in on him, Bob is divided by his love for two women; his loyalty to his father and mentor, JOHN (David Keith); and his respect for his father-in-law, Clint.

Now as he tries to hold his two lives together, while fending off angry investors and the suspicions of those around him, Bob puts it all on the line hoping he can beat the odds, leave the schemes behind and keep two separate relationships afloat.

James Wolk

Jeffery & Cole Casserole

July 12, 2010

Cole EscolaThe gay comedy duo of Jeffery Self and Cole Escola returned to Logo TV for a second season of their comedy sketch show Jeffery & Cole Casserole. The first season of Jeffery & Cole Casserole was a clever and witty addition to summer TV in 2009, so a second season in 2010 was favorably anticipated. Unfortunately, the second season appears to be only a caricature of the first. The unlikely and well-received quality drawn from a show about two guys doing amateur videos now looks like just two guys doing an amateur video.

There is a rumor that Logo paid Self and Escola a very small sum of money for an entire season worth of product. Perhaps for the second season, the pair decided to give the company what it paid for, and intentionally decided to deliver a load of crap. It doesn’t help the viewer if that were true, but at least it would make the two of them not look like they have run out creativity.

In the first season they made an attempt to create something of quality and they succeeded. The second season is woefully missing that quality. The absurdity they used in season one was like Lewis Carroll; in season two it was like Dumb and Dumber. It changed from an avant-garde art project to something made by a teenage straight boy in his cul-de-sac in suburban Des Moines.

Several things have changed. One of the cute things about the first season was that Jeffery & Cole played almost all the roles in their sketches. When they did occasionally have additional cast, the actors played gray, background characters that practically blended into the scenery and didn’t alter the sense of J&C living in their own private universe. The actors were friends of J&C who helped fill in where needed. Now it looks like all their friends are being inserted prominently into the show as favors to give them face time. It ruins the sense of the show being exclusively about J&C.

Another thing that alters the nature of the show from being how two young guys could take a cheap webcam and a very limited space and set of props and make something wonderful, is now they have a professional camera and they record further afield. It doesn’t feel anymore like two kids making comedy to amuse themselves in their apartment on a rainy day.

They reused some bits from their first season but they not only didn’t improve them, they did them worse. Their “marry, f’ck or kill” game in the first season was done as serious but with a weird hilarious twist in it. This go-around was just amateurish as they giggled their way through it. They aren’t even trying anymore to be clever.

An essential element of absurdist comedy is presenting situations as if they were normal and serious but have some bizarre aspect inserted into them. The absurdity is treated as a normal event, thus producing the comedy. In season two, Jeffery & Cole keep laughing at their own material, ruining the effect of the surrealism.

The show is not a complete crapfest. There are still some funny moments in it, largely from Cole Escola’s wonderful comedic performances. However, the show needs to get back to its successful elements from its first season if it wants to recapture the achievements and glory of season one.

(Sometimes misspelled as Jeffrey & Cole Casserole.)

Ryan Conklin Reports On GIFF

May 10, 2010

Ryan ConklinRyan Conklin will be attending the 2010 GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C. During the run of the festival (May 11-16), Ryan will be a guest blogger/ correspondent for the program, covering GIFF’s primetime events.

Located at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, GIFF “will present films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American Armed Forces and the worldwide struggle for freedom and liberty.”

In addition to his role as guest blogger, on Friday Ryan will be attending a day-long GIFF seminar/workshop on filmmaking. The event will cover film financing, distribution, marketing and film pitching. It will also give attendees the chance to network with Hollywood insiders. It will be a good learning opportunity for Ryan A. Conklin, a film studies major at Temple University.

Read Ryan Conklin At GI Film Festival.

Ryan Conklin On Dateline: Washington

April 26, 2010

Ryan ConklinTo promote his book An Angel From Hell, author Ryan A. Conklin was a guest on the radio program “Dateline: Washington”, hosted by Greg Corombos.

Greg asked Ryan about how Ryan knew right away after 9/11 that he wanted to join the Army. Ryan replied that he was what is known as a “9/11 baby”. He was one of the people that caused recruitment in the military to soar after the attacks. Ryan joined during his junior year in high school, when he was looking for what to do after he graduated. He wasn’t ready to go to college, so there was nothing pulling him away from joining. He wanted to go to Afghanistan to “put it to it to the guys who started this.” Furthermore, he didn’t want a cushy job. He wanted a front line job that would allow him to look the enemy in the eye. He decided the best fit for him would be in the infantry, and that’s what he got.

Greg mentioned that in the book, Ryan tells about having several different kinds of jobs. Greg wanted to know if Ryan’s training helped him. Ryan answered that the two years of training he had before he deployed to Iraq helped, but there was a “lack of accurate training”. It was cold war style, training in the woods in green camo with green face paint, and learning how to attack a bunker. There were essential things for being in Iraq that weren’t taught, like speaking Arabic. Once he got to Iraq, Ryan found himself learning as he went along on what he needed to know. Greg also asked about what urban fighting is like. Ryan said that it is about going out and being seen. It could be boring, but there were intense times with IEDs and sniper fire. Ryan explained that you always have to be ready and focused. It can be “zero to hell” in a second.

On the psychological toll, Ryan said it depended on who you are with. It can actually be comical in a Humvee. He said you would think the soldiers would be wide-eyed, staring out the window waiting for something to happen. In fact there is a lot of joking around, while still doing their job. It’s a way to make the best of it. Cutting the tension keeps people’s sanity and keeps them from being too wound up. Ryan said if you don’t have a sense of humor, you are doomed.

Greg asked Ryan Conklin what he hoped people would learn from the book. Ryan said that he wrote about what he saw and didn’t go above his area of knowledge. His style was to write like he was telling his story directly to an individual who knew nothing about what the service was like. From what he has been told by people who have read it, it makes the readers feel like they are out on patrol with Ryan, seeing what he saw.

Ryan Conklin’s Mother On The Radio

April 25, 2010

Ryan ConklinAuthor Ryan A. Conklin and his mother Pat Conklin were guests on the radio show “Radio Times” on station WHYY, discussing Ryan’s experience as a soldier in Iraq. Ryan Conklin was on the show to promote his book, An Angel From Hell.

The host of the show, Marty Moss-Coane, spoke to Ryan about how some soldiers struggle when they come home from a deployment, trying to adjust back into civilian life. Ryan remarked how the Army didn’t take steps to ensure people integrated back into society. His experience was that he came back to the U.S. and right away got processed out and was quickly back at home with his parents. It happened so quickly, Ryan didn’t have time to adjust. It left him feeling like he was on his own, just drifting around. Not knowing what to do going forward, he looked back with a sense that he still had unfinished business with the military, that he was out of place being away from it. He didn’t have anything in his at-home life that filled the void of the detachment. He missed a lot of things he had become accustomed to, especially the camaraderie of his buddies.

Ryan said that compounding that is that it isn’t possible to flip the switch to move from a combat mentality to a civilian one. In Iraq, the soldiers were constantly on guard in their minds with the anticipation of some attack, no matter what they were doing. When they come home, their mindset is still that way. It’s a struggle to deal with coming down from that apprehension. The host noted that in the MTV documentary about Ryan, Return to Duty, Ryan’s brother and sister remarked how vigilant Ryan was when he returned to his home town of Gettysburg. Ryan agreed, saying that seeing even a single piece of garbage on the highway would make his heart speed up, as his mind considered that it could be something that might blow up. Many other things would effect him adversely as well, such a loud noises from construction sites or traffic.

Ryan’s parents were watching Ryan to see how he was adapting to normal life. His mom could see how he was struggling. She suggested that he do something constructive with a stack of old printed emails – emails that Ryan had sent from Iraq to his parents detailing his experience there. She told him it would be good for him to use them as a basis for opening up and expressing himself through writing. Marty asked Pat about the emails and Pat explained why she had kept them for giving to Ryan when he returned home. Ryan is considered the historian in the family. He is very much into family genealogy. As all the family are history buffs, she felt that the emails would be worth holding on to, not knowing when Ryan might want to refer back to them to revisit what had occurred. Ryan did use the emails, and with them wrote An Angel From Hell.

Marty also asked Pat about an earlier experience when she had had to do something for Ryan: sign her permission for the then 17 year old Ryan to join the Army. Pat acknowledged that it was very hard for her to do. She was concerned for her son, but she could see that Ryan had thought through his plans well. He meticulously explained why he was doing it and how he would use it later in life. It took awhile to convince Pat, but reluctantly she acceded to her son’s intent.

Marty asked Pat about the emotion she clearly felt at the airport watching Ryan say goodbye as he left to return to the Army, as seen in the documentary Return to Duty. Pat said it was very emotional for the whole family and hard on all of them. She felt it was probably hard for Ryan too, but he doesn’t say much to his parents about what happens after he is out of their sight. It was actually harder the second time that Ryan went into the Army because the family knew what had happened during the first deployment. As a parent feeling the responsibility to protect her child and knowing she couldn’t, she was distraught about seeing him go.

Marty remarked that at the airport it was clear the family was trying to protect one another. Pat replied that the family didn’t want to put an additional burden on a departing soldier. They didn’t want him to to be concerned about how the family was bearing up. Once he was in Iraq they would again try to mask their concern, using humor when he called or wrote. They wanted to show Ryan that they were going to be okay.

With the communication with Iraq. there was the difficult situation with the blackouts. Where there was an incident with casualties, the Army would put a blackout on the internet and phone connections, to control the release of information about it. Ryan had warned his parents about it. He told them that if they didn’t hear anything for several days, that’s good. The Army would notify the family within 48 hours if their loved one had been injured, so if 48 hours had passed, they would know they were okay. The time during the 48 hour wait periods was very slow. Pat would want to communicate with Ryan, to know how he was doing, how he was feeling, what he was eating, and other parental concerns.

Something that Pat and her husband never needed to say to Ryan was their views on the war. Ryan still doesn’t know what his parents’ view is. What he does know is their faithful support of the soldiers in Iraq and how proud his parents are of him and what he has accomplished during the years of his young life.

Ryan A. Conklin On The Marc Steiner Show

April 7, 2010

Ryan ConklinOn April 7th, 2010, Ryan A. Conklin was a guest on The Marc Steiner Show, a radio show broadcast from Baltimore, Maryland. Ryan Conklin went on the show to discuss his memoir, An Angel From Hell. The host Marc Steiner was well versed in the details of the book and spoke with Ryan about several of the important parts in it.

Steiner asked about 9/11, which Ryan refers to at the start of the book. Ryan replied that he was in high school, planning on going to college, but not sure exactly what his plans would be after that. After 9/11, he was sure of what he wanted to do. He wanted to join the army. He joined at age 17 but waited until he graduated before going into uniform.

Steiner wondered if Ryan has considered why he joined the Army while other students did not. Ryan replied that it was something he wanted to do but it wasn’t something that many others did. He didn’t join because of following anyone else.

Next Steiner talked about Ryan entering Army training. Ryan explained that he had chosen to be an infantryman, but it was the Army that placed him with the 101st Airborne. Ryan was happy that to be part of it because of their traditions, such as their phrase, “rendezvous with destiny”. For him the airborne part was learning to jump out of helicopters instead of planes. He trained non-stop for 2 years before deploying. That amount of time was good for building camaraderie and giving him the training he needed to be effective in Iraq.

Steiner noted that the book is not a reflective work; it’s about what Ryan went through everyday. Ryan agreed that it is not an analysis, but rather a narrative about what daily life was like. He said he wrote it as if telling the story to a person who is ignorant of everything connected with the military. There are a lot of acronyms connected with the Army, but where Ryan used them, he provided definitions.

A major incident in the book is the death of Andrew Kemple and Steiner asked about it. Ryan stated that the war wasn’t personal for him until Kemple’s death. There had been injuries to friends that had caused some emotion, but Kemple’s death by a sniper hit Ryan with the reality of what could happen to any of the men in his platoon. There was a certain sense of comfort and familiarity of knowing what to do to protect yourself, but after the death of Kemple, Ryan started being more cautious and attuned to all the hidden dangers. Since there is no front line and no enemy in uniform, anyone could be the enemy. It was hard to deal with.

A few days after Kemple’s death several Iraqis were taken prisoner in relation to the sniping. As one of their guards, Ryan took his anger out on them, yelling and ranting and getting things off his chest. It felt good at the time, but while writing about it, Ryan felt that he had deviated from his usual good ways.

Steiner asked Ryan if he would still enlist if he had it to do over again. Ryan answered that yes, knowing what he knows now, he would. The friendships and life lessons from his time in the Army are invaluable. One of the important lessons he learned was how much greater his personal limits are than what he might have thought otherwise. The circumstances he was in, where he was pushed and where he was encouraged by seeing the endurance of his buddies, caused him to go beyond the mental barrier of his perceived limitations. He is still able to apply that expanded view of his ability in his everyday life.

However, now that he has done two deployments, Ryan has no interest in returning to the military. After the first deployment, he missed the camaraderie of his buddies and the good feeling from doing a job (as an infantryman) that he knew he was very good at. After the second tour, he had it out of his system to be an infantryman again. Technically, Ryan is still in the IRR, but the timing requirements of being recalled another time make it unrealistic for it to happen again.

On a question about the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Ryan talked about his involvement with the group, including his participation in their “Storm The Hill 2010” campaign to lobby Congress for veterans’ issues. Ryan spoke with Congressman and Senators and staff of the President about the IAVA’s agenda.

A radio listener called in with a question, asking Ryan if he had considered joining Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Ryan replied that he had been to some of their events so that he could better understand their position, but their view is not necessarily what he consistently believes. His focus is primarily on the cause of supporting returning veterans.

At the end of the program, Steiner asked Ryan about one of the most striking passages in the book, which is a description of the visible aftermath of a suicide bombing. The words go into graphic detail of what a field of body parts looks like. Ryan explained that he wanted to adequately capture the horror of it. Referring back to the impetus for the whole book, he said he wrote the chapter as a way to get the images out of his head. For him this exercise was very effective, and he encourages other veterans also to use writing as therapy.

The Incredible Legs Of JR Celski

February 23, 2010

JR CelskiHow does a guy who has had the quadriceps on his left leg accidentally sliced through manage to win an Olympic speed skating medal? How does he do it only five months after they were sundered? A person who can accomplish that has a pretty amazing leg, or perhaps an incredible drive to succeed. The person at the 2010 Winter Olympics who had such a miracle leg was American short track speedskater J.R. Celski, and the evidence that he and his injured leg are really special is that he won the bronze medal in the 1500m event.

On September 12th, 2009, at the sport’s U.S. Olympic Trials, JR Celski was skating in the semifinals of the 500m when he crashed into the protective wall on the last lap. He hit it hard and at an angle that thrust the blade of his right skate into his left thigh. The stabbing was 6″ wide and 2″ deep, cutting to the bone and missing his femoral artery by only an inch. Not knowing what else to do, Celski pulled the embedded blade out his leg himself, and he felt it.

With the blade out, Celski was overwhelmed by what he saw. He described the interior of wound as being a rainbow of colors. “It was blue, purple, yellow, red, white. I could see my femur.”

Celski cried out.

The situation became worse as Celski was taken to a hospital. He was taken in an ambulance that for whatever reason was driven at a regular pace, without a siren, and even stopping at lights. At the hospital, there were no surgeons on duty. At a least one moment during the night, Celski believed that he was going to die.

Eventually Celski was operated on, with his muscles sewn back together. The opening in the flesh was closed with some 60 stitches. But to Celski, it seemed that his skating career was over.

However, Celski knew that he had qualified for the U.S. team – he just needed to get better. So he and his father went to Park City, Utah, to meet with Dr. Eric Heiden, the five-time gold medalist and team orthopedist for U.S. Speedskating. Heiden evaluated the injury and helped put together a treatment plan. After that Celski went to the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to start the program. The plan would be overseen by staff doctor Bill Moreau. Moreau tried to be realistic, telling Celski, “J.R., I don’t know if you can do this.”

Celski was undeterred and began the rehabilitation program with gusto. He started with things like riding a stationary bike, walking, and doing hydro-therapy. Celski was increasingly pushed by his therapists and he pushed himself harder.

Celski’s training regimen consisted of 3 or 4 hours on the ice and then the same amount of time running, biking, weight training, doing coordination drills and stretching. He would do it six days a week. Relaxation would come with time spent in the sauna.

By October, Celski was able to stop using crutches and by the middle of November he was back on the ice. He was able to skate, but only very slowly. It was eight weeks until the Olympics.

With great determination and grit Celski persevered and miraculously brought himself back to a competitive level in the remaining two months. He would fall and even crash in practice, but his inner strength proved to be invincible. He conquered both the physical injury and the mental challenge that comes with such a devastating injury.

For Celski, the 6″ scar on his leg has become a reminder of just how far he has come. He wants to keep it gruesome so he won’t forget. He said, “People keep telling me to put vitamin E on it. I’m not going to do anything to it. I want to be reminded of what I overcame.”

Celski made it to Vancouver and there he made sure everyone else knew about the injury and the scar, and could see what he had dealt with. On his cell phone he would show anyone that would look a photo of the open wound before he was operated on.

There in Vancouver, Celski created another Olympic “Miracle on Ice”, winning the bronze medal in the 1500m. Where for some it would be a success to walk again or to be able to get back on skates again, for Celski the only worthy goal was to get an Olympic medal. Fortunately, he had that pair of incredible legs that could recover from such a horrendous injury in such an amazingly short time. Of course, it also helped that those legs were part of an incredible person with a spirit that wouldn’t let terrible adversity prevent him from realizing his dream.

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