Robert Downey, Jr: Iron Man Thrilled to be Back from the Dark Side

Robert Downey, Jr: From Sam Taylor-Wood’s Crying Men (2002-2004)

Robert Downey, Jr: The Darker Years

It was a while in coming, but in 1996 the police officers who had stopped Downey noticed that he was carrying an unloaded .357 Magnum, along with small amounts of heroin and cocaine. Just a month later, he was cited for trespassing and being under the influence of a controlled substance after he mistook a neighbor’s house for his own and fell asleep in a child’s bedroom. His life rapidly turned into a series of court dates and drug relapses. In 2000, he was apprehended by police in a hotel room with cocaine and a Wonder Woman costume.

There were rehabs that did not work, followed by jails that did not impress, ending up in his having to serve hard time, twice, including a one-year stint in a state prison where he had to fight to find a place to stand. Just four months after Downey’s August 2000 prison release, he was arrested again, on a Thanksgiving weekend for alleged cocaine and Valium possession and being under the influence of drugs. The Valium charge was reduced to a misdemeanor in May 2001. Downey was sent back to drug rehabilitation and put on three-years probation after his July 16, 2001, no-contest plea to the November 2000 drug possession charges.

Elton John and Sam Taylor-Wood: Downey’s Return to Acting

It is usually reported that it was Mel Gibson who gave Downey his first post-rehab film break, in 2003’s The Singing Detective; as the producer, it’s reported that Gibson put up the insurance money for his friend. However, Downey’s real first acting job after being ordered into the drug treatment program in July 2001 came less than two-weeks later, thanks to Elton John and Elton’s friend Sam Taylor-Wood. When Taylor-Wood suggested to Elton the idea of having an actor lip-syncing to the song in the video for the single I Want Love, both Taylor-Wood and Elton thought Downey would be perfect, and the video ended up being a one-shot video centered on Downey.

The video consists of Downey walking around an empty, lonely building (actually, Greystone Manor in Beverly Hills) at the end of July 2001, lip-synching the song, I Want Love. It has been reported that Elton and Taylor-Wood arranged for Downey to be granted a one-day pass from rehab in order to do the filming. Looking back, Taylor-Wood described the experience as one where, “The whole process of making it involved such serendipity, everything just slotted into place really beautifully. Between Elton asking me to do the video and its airing on MTV was less than two weeks. It was an unbelievably fast turnaround.” The video also was included in Elton’s subsequent concert tour and was shown on a big screen onstage while he sang the song.

I Want Love: The Paradox of Love

I Want Love, the Elton John music video produced by Taylor-Wood, becomes an awkwardly painful statement from Robert Downey about the paradox of love. Noting that he is a man carrying the heavy and aching weight of self-destructive baggage, Downey’s desperate self basically says, “I want love, but I want nothing you do or say to affect me, I am who I am.” In its encounter with the other, the self wished to affirm its absolute independence, even though its need for the other and the other’s similar wish gave the lie to it.

I Want Love: Elton John and Robert Downey Jr. (2001)

Directed by Sam Taylor Wood

Pietà: An Icon of Exhaustion and Distress

Sam Taylor-Wood:

“Doing it [the filming of I Want Love] was fun. It was such a different experience, because I felt I didn’t have much to lose, it’s not a world I wanted to go on and make a career in. On that day, I think there were 16 10-minute takes before we found the right one. When we got the perfect take, we were all so excited, we didn’t want the day to end.

Afterwards there was still lots of film left. So we said, “Come on, let’s play, let’s make some things.” I’d just been to Rome and seen Michelangelo’s Pietà in St Peter’s. So I said, “Right, let’s do a Pietà.” There was something very natural about the process of doing that. He was exhausted, I was exhausted, but we were both quite elated. The Pietà video consisted of me propping him up. The whole experience of doing the music video and the Pietà, was a tremendous release.

Why did Taylor-Wood decide to do a moving piece of Pietà rather than a still one? The Pietà, for instance, could have been a still. Taylor-Wood responded, “With that piece I wanted to see the struggle, to see the weight, so to speak. You can see the muscles in my arms and neck straining, and my breathing is really laboured. It’s silent, but you can see me heaving to keep him held up. I drop him a bit, and pick him up, and drop him again. You couldn’t do that in a photograph in the same way.”

In Pietà, the draped body of Robert Downey Jr, laid out like Holbein’s Dead Christ in the Tomb, is presented in a manner that is so matter of fact, so drained of real importance, that the idea of death asserts itself with the chilled subtlety of a business card dropped on a dinner setting. Why him, one might ask, and for that matter, why her? Why ask, would be her likely reply. Taylor-Wood has appropriated widely in the past, from Atlas to Roman orgy scenes (updated to the present day) to Hollywood movies.

Here, as elsewhere in her work, feelings of emotional and physical distress take the place of narrative. In Taylor-Woods’ hands, The Pietà becomes an icon of exhaustion and distress. Or obversely, exhaustion and distress become iconic, if only by association.

It is very important to note that after the filmings of I Want Love and Pietà with Sam Taylor-Wood, Robert Downey Jr. has never again gone to rehab, jail or prison.

Pietà: A World of Exhaustion and Distress (2001)

Sam Taylor-Wood: Crying Men

Prior to being diagnosed with cancer eleven years ago, Sam Taylor-Wood was the darling party girl of Young British Art. By the age of 42, Sam Taylor-Wood had become the British art world’s acceptable face: a mature artist with an A-list address book and, with her husband, Jay Jopling, a place at the new art establishment’s top table. Grown men have wept for her, but how woud they remember her? She could have sat for Modigliani. Her long face, the slim figure, the strong, bony hands echo the left-field sensuality and elongated elegance of his models. There are hints of it in her own self-portraits, especially the strangely balletic Self-Portrait Suspended, which was made after she had filmed and photographed members of Great Britain’s Royal Ballet. This is a forgivable display of narcissism; a creative work that is evoked by a dream of swimming in air can hardly be a legitimate source of public outrage in the art world.

Taylor-Wood’s acclaimed earlier experimental short film, Still Life, in which a bowl of fruit was filmed slowly rotting away, was about mortality and life’s inevitable transience; her later work, Crying Men (2002-2004), was a treatise on the theme of sadness. Her series of photographs in Crying Men attempted to capture the moment between the real and the unreal, the imitation and the authentic. By her use of celebrity actors as models, the viewer debates whether their tears of sadness (and therefore their emotions) are genuine. If the models had been anonymous, the question would never arise. Of course, the question is really a moot one; even if their tears were acting, the pictures can give a viewer the rare opportunity to touch upon the real sources of sadness from which professional actors may draw upon to perform feelings of unhappiness ad sorrow. It is a subtle challenge that is typical of Taylor-Wood’s increasing degree of maturity as a visual artist.

Robert Downey, Jr continued his working relationship with Taylor-Wood in this work, appearing as one of the celebrity actors in her Crying Men series of photographs.

Sam Taylor-Wood: Crying Men (2002-2004)

Chaplin is a 1992 semi-biographical film about the life of Charles Chaplin. It starred Robert Downey Jr., Dan Aykroyd and Geraldine Chaplin. The film was adapted from the books My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin and Chaplin: His Life and Art by David Robinson. It was produced and directed by Richard Attenborough. The original music score was composed by John Barry.

Although the film was criticized for taking dramatic license with some respects of Chaplin’s life, Downey’s uncanny performance as Chaplin won almost universal acclaim. Attenborough was sufficiently confident in Downey’s performance to include historical footage of Chaplin himself at the end of the film. The film’s tagline was “Everyone has a wild side. Even a legend.”

It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Robert Downey Jr.), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Music, Original Score. Robert Downey Jr. also won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor.

Robert Downey, Jr Sings: Smile (Chaplin, 1992)

Robert Downey’s return from the brink is truly a fighter’s tale. Since getting clean in 2001, the man who was at one time referred to as the best actor of his generation, but also (in Time Magazine) as a “stark reminder of the strangling power of addiction,” has labored hard to show Hollywood that he deserved another chance.

And look at him standing there now, a great big movie star in a huge, blockbuster of a movie, The Iron Man, with not a trace of human frailty. It was only seven years ago that the only time you saw Robert Downey Jr. getting big publicity in our newspapers or on television came when he was being paraded and humiliated in public by the police after one of his many arrests.

Yet when it came time for Marvel Studios to cast the lead for a huge franchise film, Iron Man, it bet on Robert Downey. He is not only back in the game but at the very top of it. Downey’s saga easily can lead one to think: Isn’t this a great country, or what?

Robert Downey, Jr: Iron Man, 2008 (The Official Trailer)

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Abused Chicago Riders Revolt Against Daley’s Decayed Subway System

After years of increasing abuse and neglect, Chicago subway riders finally got fed up, drew the line and revolted against Mayor Daley’s pathetic subway system. A jam-packed rush-hour subway train had been stopped underground in Chicago’s Loop for over an hour on Tuesday morning, held up by a broken-down train ahead. In the stifling, hot and stuffy air, passengers had turned nervous and impatient. Some were throwing up and getting sick from a complete lack of circulating fresh air. Finally, the Chicagoans revolted, ignoring the unpredictably intermittent announcements and pleas from transit workers, who were themselves in a state of total confusion about what was really going on. En mass, the riders decided to leave the stalled trains and to make a long and dangerous trudge through the dirty, dimly lit underground tunnel toward the eventual light of freedom.

As usual in Chicago’s disreputable world of machine politics, Hizzoner’s political flunky transit officials were quick to put all of the blame on the Chicago citizens, on the passengers, saying that the unauthorized evacuation caused bigger problems. Afraid that the passengers making to their freedom through the dark and dirty underground tunnel might be electrocuted by the subway’s electrically charged third rail, transit officials cut off all power to part of the Blue Line, which travels a large U-shaped route between Chicago’s West Side and O’Hare International Airport. Service was terminated for about four hours, and more than a thousand passengers had to be helped off several trains.

Esmeralda Cuevas, 26, who works in Chicago’s Loop as an administrative assistant, was on the train immediately behind the stalled one when she saw a number of haggard people walk by a window of her stranded subway car. “I felt a sense like I want to be with them,” Ms. Cuevas said. “I was impressed with their courage. I thought, ‘I can stay in here with these people and feel hot and uncomfortable, or I can start walking.’ ” And walk she did. So did most of the other stranded passengers from a total of four trains, who forged ahead despite intermittent, confusing public intercom announcements asking them to return.

Some two hours after her ordeal began, Ms. Cuevas finally emerged from the subway crying, with dirt all over her hands and face. An executive at her office downtown advised her to avoid the subway for a few days and to take cabs. But since he didn’t have the generosity to offer to pay for her cab rides, Ms. Cuevas said that she plans to take the train, but on an elevated line, not the underground subway.

At least seven of the Chicago subway passengers suffered injuries and breathing problems that required hospitalization. At the present time, none of their injuries or ailments is thought to be life threatening.

Revolt: Trapped in Underground Subway

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Madness: Trapped in Elevator Car 30

Madness: Trapped in Elevator Car 30

In a New Yorker Magazine article by Nick Paumgarten that described a number of stories about elevator horrors and dangers, he recounted the harrowing experience of Nicholas White, a special assignment employee who worked in the mid-town Manhattan offices of Business Week magazine.

Nicholas White was a thirty-four-year-old production manager at Business Week. He was working late on a special assignment and wanted a cigarette. He told a colleague that he’d be right back and, leaving his jacket behind, headed downstairs. Thus commenced the longest smoke break of Nicholas White’s life, a harrowing experience that began at around eleven o’clock on a Friday night in October, 1999.

The Business Week offices were located on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building in mid-town Manhattan. When White finished his cigarette, he returned to the lobby, got into Car No. 30 and pressed the button marked 43. The car accelerated. It was an express elevator, with no stops below the thirty-ninth floor, and the building was deserted. But after a moment, White felt a jolt. The lights went out, immediately flashed on again and then the elevator stopped.

The control panel made a beep, and White waited a moment, expecting a voice to give information or instructions, but none came. He pressed the intercom button, but there was no response. He hit it again, and then began pacing around the elevator. Time passed, although he was not sure how much, because he had no watch or cell phone. He occupied himself with thoughts of remaining calm and decided that he’d better not do anything drastic, because, whatever the malfunction, he thought it unwise to jostle the car. As the emergency bell rang and rang, he began to fear that it might somehow start a fire. Recently, there had been a small fire in the building, rendering the elevators unusable. He began hearing unlikely oscillations in the ringing: aural hallucinations. Before long, he began to contemplate death.

The most striking thing about the security-camera videotape of White’s time in the McGraw-Hill elevator is that it includes split-screen footage from three other elevators, on which you can see men intermittently performing maintenance work. Apparently, they never wondered about the one he was in. Eight security guards came and went while he was stranded there, and nobody seems to have noticed him on the monitor.

After a while, White imagined building staff members opening the elevator’s doors ten days later and finding him dead on his back, like a cockroach. Within hours, he had smoked all his remaining cigarettes. At a certain point, he decided to open the doors. He pried them apart and held them open with his foot. He was presented with a cinder-block wall on which, perfectly centered, were scrawled three “13”s-one in chalk, one in red paint, one in black. It was a dispiriting sight. He concluded that he must be on the thirteenth floor, and that, this being an express elevator, there was no egress from the shaft anywhere for many stories up or down. He peered down through the crack between the wall and the sill of the elevator and saw that it was very dark. He could make out some light at the bottom. It looked far away. A breeze blew up the shaft.

He started to call out. “Hello?” He tried cupping his hand to his mouth and yelled out some more. “Help! Is there anybody there? I’m stuck in an elevator!” He kept at it for a while. White opened the doors to urinate. As he did so, he hoped, in vain, that a trace of this violation might get the attention of someone in the lobby. He considered lighting matches and dropping them down the shaft to attract notice, but still had the presence of mind to suspect that this might not be wise. The alarm bell kept ringing. He paced and waved at the overhead camera. He couldn’t tell whether it was night or day.

Eventually, he lay down on the floor and tried to sleep. The carpet was like coarse AstroTurf, and was lousy with nail trimmings and other detritus. It was amazing to him how much people could shed in such a short trip. He used his shoes for a pillow and laid his wallet, unfolded, over his eyes to keep out the light. It wasn’t hot, yet he was sweating. His wallet was damp. Maybe a day had passed. He drifted in and out of sleep, awakening each time to the grim recognition that his elevator confinement had not been a dream. His thirst was overpowering. The alarm was playing more aural tricks on him, so he decided to turn it off. Then he tried doing some Morse code with it. He yelled some more. He tried to pick away at the cinder-block wall.

At a certain point, Nicholas White ran out of ideas. Anger and vindictiveness took root. He began to think, They, whoever they were, shouldn’t be able to get away with this, that he deserved some compensation for the ordeal. He cast about for blame. He wondered where his colleague was, why she hadn’t been alarmed enough by his failure to return, jacketless, from smoking a cigarette to call security. “Whose fault is this?” he wondered. “Who’s going to pay?” He decided that there was no way he was going to work the following week.

And then he gave up. The time passed in a kind of degraded fever dream. On the videotape, he lies motionless for hours at a time, face down on the floor. A voice woke him up: “Is there someone in there?” “Yes.” “What are you doing in there?” White tried to explain; the voice in the intercom seemed to assume that he was an intruder. “Get me the fuck out of here!” White shrieked. Duly persuaded, the guard asked him if he wanted anything. White, who had been planning to join a few friends at a bar on Friday evening, asked for a beer.

Before long, an elevator-maintenance team arrived and, over the intercom, coached him through a set of maneuvers with the buttons. White asked what day it was, and, when they told him it was Sunday at 4 P.M., he was shocked. He had been trapped for forty-one hours. He felt a change in the breeze, which suggested that the elevator was moving. When he felt it slow again, he wrenched the door open, and there was the lobby. In his memory, he had to climb up onto the landing, but the video does not corroborate this. When he emerged from the elevator, he saw his friends, with a couple of security guards, and a maintenance man, waiting, with an empty chair. His friends turned to see him and were appalled at the sight; he looked like a ghost, one of them said later. White told a guard, “Somebody could’ve died in there.” “I know,” the guard said.

White had to go upstairs to get his jacket. He went home, and then headed to a bar. He woke up to a reel of phone messages and a horde of reporters colonizing his stoop. He barely left his apartment in the ensuing days, deputizing his friends to talk to reporters through a crack in the door. White never went back to work at the magazine. Caught up in media attention, which he shunned but thrilled to, prodded by friends, and perhaps provoked by overly solicitous overtures from McGraw-Hill, White fell under the sway of renown and grievance, and then that of the legal establishment.

He got a lawyer, and came to believe that returning to work might signal a degree of mental fitness detrimental to his litigation. Instead, he spent eight weeks in Anguilla. Eventually, Business Week had to let him go. The lawsuit he filed, for twenty-five million dollars against the building’s management and the elevator-maintenance company, dragged on for four years. Eventually, they settled for an amount that White is not allowed to disclose, but he will not contest that it was a low number, hardly six figures.

He never did learn why the elevator stopped. There was talk of a power dip, but nothing definite. Meanwhile, White no longer has his job, which he’d held for fifteen years, and he’s lost all contact with his former colleagues. Now, he’s also lost his apartment, spent all of his money, and searched, mostly in vain, for paying work. White is currently unemployed.

Madness: Trapped in Car 30

Read more on Nicholas White’s ordeal and about other tales of dangerous elevator experiences in The New Yorker here.

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Train of Thoughts: A Languorous Ballet of Motion

Train of Thoughts: A Languorous Ballet of Motion

The tableau of the landscape racing past a train’s window can be in concert hypnotic, nurturing and energizing. Every display of the scenery alfresco seems to be vigorously animated simply by the train’s speed. The optical illusion of the closer objects appearing to move faster than the farther objects creates a ballet of motion perspective. Power lines along the tracks can seem to undulate urgently, while distant buildings glide by with elegant languor. A train that passes by from the opposite direction becomes a soaring and dreamy blur of motion.

Capturing video impressions now can be as spontaneous as writing or drawing. This animated film was shot with a digital still camera in the “movie mode” and it’s remarkable that nowadays something as small as part of a bar of soap can produce motion pictures. It is a notebook for the eyes or a kind of external memory hard drive with stereo sound, simultaneously both a way of seeing and remembering. The music was composed by Shay Lynch, an arrangement of 15 tracks of his guitar playing, which is an ideal evocation of the film’s trance-like quality, while also leaving you the liminal space to follow your own train of thoughts.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Animated Life: Train of Thoughts

Animation by: Jeff Scher

And Deeply Wishing to Further Evoke a Sense of Calm for You:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A Beautifully Calming Island Sunset

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My Faves for Monday, December 10, 2007

The acute desire to express oneself rests upon a wish that others pay attention to our need so we can know it and see what really matters to us. But attention rests upon mutual recognition, the bedrock for loving relations. The painful silence of unspoken words traps one in solitude and loneliness.
Beautiful photos and a gripping video included.

[tags: design, health, relationships, loneliness, solitude, photographs, music, video, gay]


“Photo of the Day: Sleeping Beauty II.” This is an elegantly sensual photograph. Very sexy, to say the least!!

[tags: Photo of the Day, Sleeping Beauty II, sexy, stud, gay, photograph, culture, cultural]


“Alone in a Crowd: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” This is a very touching piece. It includes beautiful, captivating photographs and an exquisite photo-gallery. In addition, it concludes with an original music video entitled “Alone in a Crowd.”

I deeply hope that you will treasure the experience offered by this composition.

[tags: Alone in a Crowd, lonely, alone, gay, photographs, video, music video]


“Happy Holidays: Behold the Feelings of Joy.” Wonderful, engaging photographs of people showing great feelings of happiness and joy, presented for you in high-resolution. This piece is accompanied by a very enchanting music video, entitled “Joy.”
Take a look, I sincerely hope that it gives you some pleasure during this holiday season!!

[tags: Happy Holidays, Joy, happiness, holidays, Christmas, Xmas, photographs, video, music video]

See the rest of my Faves at Faves

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World Aids Day: Leadership Must Keep the Promise

World AIDS Day 2007

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, which is observed each year on December 1st. It is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people, with an estimated 38.6 million people living with HIV, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 3.1 million (between 2.8 and 3.6 million) lives in 2005, of which more than half a million (570,000) were children. The concept of a World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention. Since then, it has been taken up by governments, international organizations and charities around the world.

While in recent years much attention has been focused on global AIDS, it is essential that we not overlook the fact that the disease remains a significant public threat in the United States, where it has become a nearly forgotten epidemic. Consider this: every 13 minutes, an American is newly infected with HIV, and 10% of them are children and adolescents under 24 years old. More than 500,000 Americans have died from the illness in the past quarter century; moreover, in the 30 minutes it takes many people to commute to work, AIDS steals the life of another American.

Philadelphia: The Pet Shop Boys

The Survivors: The Pet Shop Boys

From the Lyrics:

Many words may make it sound contrived
But somehow we’re alive

The survivors – Our heads bowed
The survivors – At memorials for other faces in the crowd

Teachers and artists
And Saturday girls
In suits or sequins
Or twinsets-and-pearls

If life is worth living,
It’s got to be run
As a means of giving,
Not as a race to be won
Many roads will run through many lives
But somehow we’ll arrive.

Stop AIDS: unaids posi+ive

World Aids Day 2007

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