JR Celski Tattoo Is Both Philippine And Polish

February 21, 2010

JR Celski shirtlessAfter his disqualification in the semifinals of the 1000m short track speedskating event at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, JR Celski unzipped his suit and revealed a large tattoo on his upper left chest. Filipinos and Filipino-Americans were quick to note that the basic design was that of the sun and star combination from the flag of the Philippines. What wasn’t so widely noted was that within the sun pattern is the coat of arms of the Republic of Poland.

JR Celski is a Filipino-American (or “Fil-Am”) through his mother, Sue. However, he’s also a Polish-American (as his last name clearly suggests) through his father, Robert. JR wanted to show both sides of his ethnic heritage by merging together in one tattoo the emblems of both of his ancestral homelands. He had the tattoo done several months before the Olympics and it took about three hours to apply.

Link to more about JR Celski.

JR Celski shirtless

J.R. Celski tattoo close-up

On the Philippine flag, in the white triange, is a sun with eight primary rays (composed of three rays each), and three five pointed stars arrayed around it. The eight primary rays represent the eight provinces that initiated the fight against Spanish colonialism in the 1896 Revolution: Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Laguna, and Batangas. The three stars represent the three major geographical divisions of the country: Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

The Polish coat of arms is a crowned white eagle, armed and displayed, on a field of red. The white eagle emblem originated when Poland’s legendary founder Lech saw a white eagle’s nest. The rays of the setting sun made the eagle’s wings appear to be tipped with gold. Lech was so enamored of the sight that he decided to place the image of the eagle on his emblem. The coat of arms appears on the Polish flag in one of the two official variations of it.

Philippine flagPolish eagle

Flag of the Philippines and Polish coat of arms

Besides the cultural significance of the tattoo, it also made some viewers of the scene on television to widen their eyes, as they saw that the cute little guy with the big smile had also become a hot young man. It looks like if he wants to, Celski can be going places other than in a circle on the ice. His talent and looks and charisma can be starting points for being a star like his teammate Apolo Anton Ohno has been before him. We will see more.

2010 Olympics Opening Ceremony

February 17, 2010

Thomas SaulgrainMy favorite aspect of the Olympics Opening Ceremony 2010 was the video projections. David Atkins, the executive producer of the show, used 70 video projectors and 38 still picture projectors to create vivid images on the floor of BC Place stadium, on hanging fabric used with the images to create the appearance of objects and structures, and on the audience themselves, who were clothed in white ponchos to make them part of the electronic canvas.

One of the notable uses of the video displayed on the floor was a segment within the “Landscape of Dreams” showcase of the regions and people of Canada. It was the salute to the prairie areas, and it featured National Circus School (Ècole nationale de cirque) student and aerialist Thomas Saulgrain (above) flying over projected images of fields of wheat. It was inspired by W.O. Mitchell’s “Who Has Seen The Wind”, from which Donald Sutherland spoke the introductory narrative.

During Saulgrain’s performance, the music that was played was Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, which is a song I really like. The expressiveness of the melody and the emotion of the lyrics were a great fit for this particular aerial ballet.

As much I liked the projections, which I must say I liked as well as the floor screen used in Beijing, I think its usage was too restrained during this segment. It didn’t need a lot more, but just a little more oomph would have been nice. Of course, with the TV coverage focused mainly on Thomas Saulgrain flying overhead, there might have been more that was seen by the audience at the stadium that was not seen by the TV audience. An instance of where the full potential of the system was shown was when the entire floor became one huge field of wheat (or was it prairie grass?)

Thomas Saulgrain

Another noteworthy example of the technology was a displayed image of whales swimming across the floor. It added some 3-D to the 2-D image with real spouting up in the air from the whales (below).

Olympics Opening Ceremony

Ryan Conklin Speaks To Congress

February 8, 2010

Ryan A. Conklin IAVA

During the week of February 8-12, 2010, Ryan Conklin will be working in Washington, D.C. with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) as part of a team to inform members of Congress about the organizations’s legislative priorities. The campaign is known as “Storm the Hill 2010” and it will help Congress to better understand the needs of our newest military veterans.

The 2010 priorities are modernizing the VA claims processing system, streamlining and simplifying the post 9/11 GI bill, securing jobs for veterans, eliminating combat stress stigma, and supporting better health care for female veterans.

Ryan will be part of “Team Bravo”, one of the seven teams of veterans that will be speaking to members of Congress and their staff.

You can learn more about the work that the IAVA is doing during this campaign and see how you help support it by going to www.stormthehill.org.

Ryan Speaks About His Return To Duty Special

November 4, 2009

Ryan Conklin in IraqIn a video clip from Iraq, Ryan Conklin spoke about the MTV television special that will chronicle his time after the end of The Real World Brooklyn. It will show his preparation to return to active service in the Army and then his deployment to Iraq and his experiences there. It will focus not only on him but also on other people in his life, relating how Ryan’s recall has profoundly affected them. The show is called Return To Duty and will premiere on MTV at 9pm on November 11th, 2009.

Ryan compared the timing of the premiere with what had happened one year prior. He reminded viewers that a year ago he had received the notification from the Army that he was being recalled from the Individual Ready Reserve. Now on the anniversary of that fateful event, Ryan wanted to do something he felt a lot more favorable about. He wants to show everyone what being in that kind of situation is like, and what it means to soldiers and their families.

Ryan explained that with his own camera he himself had recorded a lot of the raw footage. Then the resources of BMP were able to take the video and craft the hour special. Ryan has seen the finished product and he is very excited and very impressed by it. He needed to watch it for the first time by himself, as he knew it would be something that was very emotional for him.

Ryan said it is a great story. It’s one that is relatable to families that have experienced the same situation themselves, and for those families that haven’t, it should be a good education about what sending someone off to war is like.

(Mark your Ryan A. Conklin calendars for 11/11/09).

Ryan Conklin in MTV Special Return To Duty

October 31, 2009

Ryan Conklin in IraqThe long awaited MTV follow-up special about the recall to active duty and deployment to Iraq of The Real World Brooklyn‘s Ryan Conklin is finally going to be aired.

This is the description of the show:

Any viewer of The Real World Brooklyn vividly remembers the emotional moment when cast member, and Army vet, Ryan Conklin was unexpectedly recalled for a second tour of duty in Iraq. Return to Duty is Ryan’s gritty and very personal document of his return as a patrol gunner to the sweltering streets of Baghdad. Equipped with his own video camera, and the addition of a camera crew embedded with his unit, it’s a soldier’s view of America’s changing military presence in the long war in Iraq. His very close-knit family back home must cope with the fear and absence of their son fighting overseas once again; while his new found relationship with Brooklyn Real World roommate Baya is put to a critical test.

Click on the link for more about the MTV Ryan Conklin special Return To Duty, which premieres on November 11th.

Ryan A. Conklin An Angel From Hell

August 17, 2009

Ryan ConklinWith the advent of Ryan Conklin’s book being available for pre-order on various book seller sites, Ryan wrote a plug for his book in a blog post on his MySpace page. He provided information about what the book contained, why he wrote it, and what he hoped readers would get out of it.

As reported here before, the title “An Angel From Hell” refers to Ryan being in Company A of the 3/187th Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans). That company was known as the “angels From Hell”, so being a soldier in that company made Ryan one.

The scope of this personal memoir is the year that Ryan spent in Iraq during his first deployment there (2005-2006). While there, his company provided security for Saddam Hussein’s trial in Baghdad, then moved north to Tikrit, where they did combat missions in the Al Saladin Province. Ryan mentioned the various kinds of jobs he performed at that time, including rifleman, turret gunner, radio telephone operator, assistant gunner, and general morale booster.

The book came about because of the lack of any other means to resolve the deeply buried emotions that Ryan felt about his experiences in combat. He started writing about them and found the process to be a form of self-therapy. It was a way for him to let his guard down and be open about what he felt. He could draw his emotions from his mind, put them on paper, and then push them away.

Ryan included all the little things he did during both the good times and bad times. He put in things he was proud of and things he wasn’t so proud of. It took him a year, but eventually he ended up with 400 pages of his perspective of being a soldier in Iraq.

Interestingly, the book at first was intended to be for Ryan’s eyes only. Then at some point, he realized that other people might be interested in what he had to say as well. Now, he views his book as being meaningful for any reader. He hopes it will provide insight to all on what the men and women in the military do in Iraq and what kind of situations they face there.

An Angel From Hell – BUY THE BOOK!!

Jeffery And Cole Casserole

July 9, 2009

Cole EscolaJeffery & Cole Casserole is a low-budget, television comedy sketch show on Logo that capitalizes on the popularity of vlogs and YouTube channels. It stars the fresh-faced gay duo of Cole Escola and Jeffery Self, a comedy team who had been making funny videos and posting them on YouTube before being signed to do the show.

Each episode is a collection of short sketches that are either part of the episode’s main storyline or are totally unrelated (hence, the “casserole”). They have the look of many YouTube videos because they are recorded with a webcam, and (wanting to keep the feel of Jeffery and Cole’s earlier work) are intentionally made to look like something someone recorded in their bedroom or backyard.

In fact, most of the scenes are recorded in Jeffery Self’s apartment, just like the guy’s original YouTube vids. As part of their deal with Logo, they also get to continue to write, direct, edit their own material. The humor style they employ is surrealistic, where an otherwise realistic situation has some strange, absurd twist that is treated as normal and expected. The absurdity and the reactions to it generate the laughs. It’s a modern, gay, studio apartment size version of Monty Python.

Jeffery Self and Cole Escola are both New York City transplants who happened to meet socially, become friends, and then start making videos together. Most of their YT videos didn’t have many “views”, but they figured out the power of search keywords and then things started really taking off. They named themselves VGL (Very Good Looking) Gay Boys because they knew people would search for videos using such words. With that and a few other well chosen video titles, they did succeed in getting a few videos into the 6 digit range of viewership.

Logo noticed their videos and after seeing one of their live bar shows, approached them with a television deal. Logo needed some new material and presumably didn’t want to pay much for it, so it was a great deal for the company.

The show can be quite funny at times, especially as it showcases the comedic talents of Cole Escola. His delivery and expressions are perfect for the absurdist style of the show. Jeffery Self is the “straight man” in the duo, or perhaps one could call him a “prop comic” – not, in the regular sense, but rather, next to the comic (Cole), Jeffery is just a prop. However, the team does seem to work and for what it does to bring out the hilarious, over-the-top performance of Cole Escola, it makes Jeffery & Cole Casserole an entertaining bit of amusement for people who like their humor off-beat.

Ryan Conklin Back On MTV

July 7, 2009

Ryan Conklin IraqOn Ryan Conklin‘s MySpace blog, he had written on April 16th and again on June 8th that he would be seen again on television. With the certainty he had in stating it, it wasn’t hard to deduce that something was in the works, presumably MTV doing a special on Ryan’s deployment to Iraq.

Then more recently, there was a curious situation of Ryan suddenly adding two more people to the small list of those he followed on Twitter, one of whom (Matt Ruecker) was a producer for The Real World Brooklyn. Both of the two new followings had written about being in Baghdad recently for a short period of time.

Now it has been revealed that yes in fact MTV had been taping Ryan’s training while stateside and also his Army life and experience in Baghdad. It’s for a followup story of what has happened to Ryan after The Real World ended and he went back to active duty. It will include scenes of what Ryan’s life is like at Joint Security Station Saydiyah near Baghdad and will show him at work as an infantryman patrolling Baghdad’s Saydiyah neighborhood.

The MTV Ryan Conklin special Return To Duty will premiere on November 11th, 2009.

It’s not surprising that MTV would want to do an additional piece focused on Ryan Conklin. During the run of The Real World Brooklyn, the viewers were charmed by the personality and wit of this engaging young man, and were heartbroken as they watched his life turned upside down with the sudden notification that he was being recalled to active duty in the Army. People watching the show grew to have a great interest and affection for him, and after the show ended they continued to want to know how well he was faring.

At the moment, as every loyal fan knows and can recite from memory, Ryan is currently serving with the North Carolina National Guard, in Company B, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

It will be heartwarming to see Ryan back on television, showing in new ways what an amazing person he is.

Click on the link for more about Ryan Conklin in Return To Duty.

Publication of Ryan Conklin Iraq Book

April 28, 2009

Ryan ConklinRyan A. Conklin’s book about his experiences during his first tour of duty in Iraq is going to be published. The working title is An Angel from Hell: Real Life On The Front Lines. The title refers to Ryan’s time in “The Angel Company” of the 101st Airborne. The expected publication date is April, 2010.

The book will be published by the Berkley imprint of the Penguin publishing group, as part of their Caliber line of military books.

Ryan had completed the majority of his manuscript before starting on the MTV show The Real World Brooklyn. He continued to write and edit his work while the show was being taped and finished the draft between the time the show wrapped and his redeployment to Iraq.

During the first episode of the show, Ryan told his castmate Sarah Rice that writing the book only for himself was his way of dealing with the stresses of war. He said that writing about what he had seen and done had a cathartic effect of drawing emotionally troubling thoughts out of his conscious mind. He also gave as a reason for writing the book that he wanted to be able to share it with his future grandchildren. He lamented that his grandfather had served in W.W. II, but that he had died before Ryan began to be interested in stories of military history. Ryan wanted to make sure that his own grandchildren would know his stories no matter what.

Fortunately for Ryan A. Conklin’s fans, now we will get to know those stories as well.


Ryan Conklin Readies To Leave For Iraq

April 15, 2009

Ryan ConklinIn a recent article by the AP, Ryan Conklin (The Real World Brooklyn) stated that he was getting ready to be in Iraq on Sunday, April 19th. (Ryan leaves Fort Bragg on the 16th headed to Kuwait first). He said he would like to leave as soon as possible so he can finish his tour that much sooner. He hopes that the duration will be no longer than nine months.

Ryan is with other soldiers who have been called back to active duty. They are not happy about their situation, being taken away from their post-service lives, and they stick together to commiserate with each other about it.

Nevertheless, Ryan still looks back at his military service as something that has been very valuable to him and something that he is very proud of. He’s confident that if he had the choice, he would make the same decision again to enlist.

One of the things he hopes to do with any rest time that he may have in Iraq is to try to do some filming. When asked if he had thought about making a documentary about his upcoming time in Iraq, Ryan joked that he could make a “Real World: Baghdad”.

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