What Exactly Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

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It seems like every celebrity and their publicist are taking part in this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Really, it’s gotten to the point where it appears to be less about charity and more about being part of the latest social fad. However, I have no proof that that’s what’s happening, so it would be disgusting to actually accuse anyone of this. Naturally, whatever celebrities do, the rest of the world does also, so almost everyone else has also participated. But what exactly is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? What purpose does it serve, who does it help and is it helping?

Although almost everyone who takes part in the challenge includes a link to the ALS Association, I’d be willing to bet that very few people actually click it to go researching about it… at least, very few in relation to the number of people who watch the video. I, for instance, have seen dozens of celebrities post these videos, but it wasn’t until watching Tom Hiddleston’s video today did I realise that ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease are one and the same.

ALS (short for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a degenerative disease of the nerve cells of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All motor function (i.e the ability to move) is due to nerve impulses (messages) which are relayed from the central nervous system to the muscles of the body via motor neurons (nerve cells of movement). If these motor neurons are compromised, they are unable to effectively relay their impulses, and motor function is consequently affected. In people suffering with ALS, their motor neurons progressively degenerate, ultimately leading to the death of these cells, which thereby severs the ability to move. With ALS patients, the muscles don’t receive adequate sustenance and therefore atrophy (reduce in size), giving a thinner and weaker physical appearance. The cause of ALS is yet to be fully understood, there is no known cure, and only one FDA-approved drug on the market, which evidently doesn’t offer any drastic improvements. However, there are various forms of therapy which helps those with the disease.

Now that we know what ALS is, let’s move on to the Ice Bucket Challenge. What purpose does it serve? The Ice Bucket Challenge was an initiative of the ALS Association in an attempt to raise awareness and money for the further research of ALS, as well as to assist those living with it. The idea was to challenge someone to withstand a bucket of ice being thrown on them, but if they chickened out, they were to donate $100 to the cause. People have modified the terms a bit so that, if you are able to complete the challenge, you still donate, but only a small fee of $10. Very many celebrities have made it clear that, in addition to completing the challenge, they’ve also donated large sums of money. I don’t think there’s really any link to the Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS, but if I had to go out on a limb to make one, I’d argue that since ice (any form of extreme cold, really) numbs nerve cells, being doused in ice may offer some physical idea as to what the symptoms of ALS are (??). I’m really just pulling this out of my butt as I go along, so don’t judge me.

Many people have criticised this viral challenge as nothing but another example of slacktivism (i.e the appearance of being actively involved in a good cause without any real effort, time or action on your part). There’s also the argument that most people who complete the challenge – I’d assume that celebrities are not included in this argument – don’t even bother making any donation, because the point of the challenge to them is less about benefitting the ALSA and more all about hyping themselves up on social media and showing that they’re a part of the trend like everyone else. The question is… are those arguments valid? While I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever in my mind that those arguments do, indeed, apply to very many people who have taken the Ice Bucket Challenge, figures have shown that the viral success of the challenge has raised a ton of money for ALS. According to the ALS Association, between the period of the initiation of the Ice Bucket Challenge and yesterday, August 19th, they have received $22.9 million dollars in donations! Is this because of the challenge? Well, considering the fact that donations last year for this same time frame was $1.9 million, it stands to reason that it is because of the challenge. They’ve also indicated that these donations, apart from their existing donors, have come from 453, 210 new donors. That’s quite something, isn’t it? So, it seems that the viral effect that Hollywood has had on the Ice Bucket Challenge has really made a difference… even if that difference may not last beyond the summer (because, let’s face it, people are fickle like that, and it’s only a matter of time before a new trend commands our attention).

As great as this cause is – and I readily admit that it’s wonderful – no one seems to be mentioning the fact that with so many people participating in this challenge, and with so many people attempting to come up with bigger and more impressive ways of completing the challenge, this is an awful lot of water being wasted. But it’s for a good cause, you may say. True, it is. But when you think about all the countries that are quite short on good, clean water, it’s hard to deny that this isn’t a bit of a waste. Still, this is a negative spin on a positive situation, so I won’t focus on it. Instead, I’ll congratulate everyone who was able to complete the challenge, commend everyone who donated to the cause, and leave you all with a few GIFs of some of the sexiest male celebs taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Show me the GIFs, dammit!

Taylor Swift Debuts New Song and Music Video “Shake It Off”

Taylor Swift Shake It Off

I’m hating myself for forgetting that Taylor Swift’s live stream with Yahoo was today! Either way, as promised, Taylor released a brand new song entitled “Shake It Off” from her new upcoming album, “1989”. I don’t want to say that I’m obsessed with the song, but let’s just say that I’ve had it on repeat for the better part of an hour now, and yeah… I’m kinda obsessed with it.

As usual, Taylor has managed to give cheeky yet positive message in an incredibly catchy song. “Shake It Off” is a song for everyone struggling with people needlessly hating on them, and Taylor advises us that no matter what mean and ignorant things they may say, it’s best if we just ignore them and shake it off.

Cuz the players gonna play, play, play, play, play

And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake

Shake it off, shake it off

There’s even an awesome part where she calls out everyone who insists that she’s too boy-crazy and that it drives her boyfriends away:

I go on too many dates

But I can’t make them stay

At least that’s what people say

Since her last album, Red, it’s been pretty obvious that Taylor has been experimenting more and more with a more pop sound, as opposed to country, and she’s enjoyed great success in this genre. “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, and “22” were all purely pop songs, and were all smash hits. I think 1989 may be entirely pop, which is a first for her, so it will be interesting to see the critical reception. I have the utmost faith in Taylor’s musical abilities, but I must admit that I’m disappointed if this album won’t be country-inspired, because I’ve always felt that Taylor’s country ballads were the best songs on any of her albums. That said, I read a report months ago which said that this album was written entirely by her, and that makes me super happy, because the only other album which she penned all her own was “Sparks Fly”, and it was her absolute best album, in my opinion.

As a bonus treat, Taylor also debuted the music video for “Shake It Off”, and it matches the tone of the song perfectly. It’s an upbeat, silly and funny video which genuinely makes me feel good. By the way, is this girl drop-dead gorgeous, or what?!

Naturally, there are those who can’t help but voice their opposition to this “new Taylor” as they are calling her, and they seem sincerely upset that this song and music video doesn’t match what they’ve grown accustomed to. I admit that this is an understandable response to change, but that doesn’t make it valid. It’s naïve to never expect change, and it’s downright unwise to go completely against it merely because it’s different. Change is different… duh! Taylor’s music has been changing and evolving for some time now, so I honestly don’t understand how anyone can be surprised at this point. Ironically, several of them are totally missing the message of the song by the criticisms that they’re posting.

My only criticism of the song is that the third verse seems a bit mismatched from the remainder of the song, but that’s not nearly enough to turn me off. Check out the video to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, because you’d better believe that I’m going to head right back to listening to it.

The Leftovers Season 1 Episode 8 “Cairo”: My Unsolicited Review

HBO The Leftovers Poster

The Leftovers is a show full of incredibly talented actors, amazing stage direction and wonderful cinematography, yet with a storyline that is seemingly impossible to make heads or tails of. It simultaneously baffles and impresses me how a show is able to be increasingly mysterious without ever really providing any newly concrete mystery. Seriously, the show recycles the same mystifying plots every episode, yet it keeps appearing like a fresh mystery every episode… and I’m reminded every time that I have no idea what I’m supposed to be following. The most succinct recap of this episode would be: Kevin is losing his mind further, the Guilty Remnant are becoming even more hardcore creepy, and Jill has completely transformed into such an insufferable bitch that she’s even alienated her best friend. Still, though, let’s probe a tad further, because a few questions were answered this week… however incompletely it may have been.

The episode started off okay enough (minus Patti’s bizarre arrangement of outfits in an empty church, but I suspect that will be explored further in next week’s episode). Nora was over at the Garvey’s for dinner, officially meeting Jill for the first time and, thanks to Amy, we got one of our first answers. Though we already knew that Nora conducted interviews with the families of those that were Departed so that they could receive benefit cheques, we never really knew why. It turns out that the reason (or at least the public story, if we’re holding on to our conspiracy theory) is so that the Government can establish circumstances and factors that everyone who disappeared had in common. That actually makes a lot of sense, and I’m surprised it hadn’t occurred to me sooner. Anyway, the dinner was progressing smoothly, despite some expected awkwardness, when Jill found it impossible to contain her bitchiness any longer, and she called out Nora for owning a gun, refusing to accept that Nora was now okay despite having lost her entire family in the Departure. Nora handled it wonderfully, though, and I’m liking her more and more with every episode.

When the dinner was over, and Nora had left, Kevin went to sleep, and we all knew that something weird was gonna go down between the time he closed his eyes and when he reopened them. I didn’t expect it to be that extreme though. When he reawoke, he found himself in his car in the woods in Cairo, New York, with loner dog-murderer, Dean, with no recollection of how and when they’d gotten there. As if that weren’t weird enough, it turned out that they had both, after a drunken night at a bar – which Kevin also had no memory of – attacked and kidnapped The Guilty Remnant Cult leader, Patti, and left her bound to a chair inside an abandoned cabin.

Although Kevin can’t remember anything that went down, Dean recalls the entire night’s events with vivid clarity, and appears unremorseful for anything that they’d done. Abandoning her vow of silence – which we’ve by now already realised is only utilised when it’s convenient to her – she promises Kevin that she will report them both to the authorities and destroy his life if he lets her go.

The majority of the episode is Kevin trying to figure out how to handle this unexpected and out-of-control situation, and in a totally eerie turn, he finds all the white shirts that he’d been missing pinned to several trees in this very location. Again, we’d already figured that the shirts that he’d received from the dry cleaners weren’t his… but I hadn’t expected him to find the real ones out there in the middle of nowhere. As he returns to Patti, Dean informs him that he’s taken care of the issue, and upon entering the cabin, Kevin sees Patti with a plastic bag tied around her head, clearly on the verge of asphyxiation. He and Dean get into a violent fight as he tries to save Patti, and Dean tries to prevent this. Dean was always a weirdo nutjob character, but I’d though that his biggest crime had been that he was trying to protect people from wild, vicious dogs. Well, it turns out that he has far many more screws than that loose, and he is quite possibly sociopathic.

Over in relative civilisation, and that’s really not saying much, Jill and Aimee hang out with the Frost twins, with Aimee recounting the events of dinner with amazing storytelling prowess. Jill once again argues that Nora is only pretending to be okay after having lost her family and when Aimee informs her that it’s possible for some people to be okay, I think we get another question answered. So far, we’ve been wondering why Aimee has been spending so much time at the Garvey’s, but this episode makes me suspect that she lost her parents in the Departure, and she can’t (or doesn’t want to be) alone. Aimee then says to Jill what we’ve all been thinking, which is that Kevin could probably be okay too if Jill would let him, and this prompts Jill to ask if Aimee has slept with him. Although clearly shocked and offended at the accusation, Aimee convincingly replies that she has slept with Kevin, but that he put an end to it because he felt it to be wrong. Jill and Aimee then exchange pleasantries of “fuck you” and Aimee storms off.

Since Jill never seems to fill her quota of being an irritating, meddlesome bitch (am I getting my point across that I severely dislike her?), she coerces the twins into breaking into Nora’s house with her, and after a bit of snooping, she finds Nora’s gun hidden under one of the kids’ old beds. She then leaves the gun displayed on the bed, and then leaves the house.

Over at the Guilty Remnant, Patti’s absence goes unnoticed for a while because Meg – in spite of all her arguments that she was ready to be part of the cult – has started losing her shit, attacking Rev Jamieson, and pretty much sending her vow of silence to hell. When Patti’s absence is finally questioned, we see Laurie sort of take up the position of de facto cult leader… and she evidently quite likes the feeling.

Back in the cabin of crazy, Patti informs Kevin that even though he saved her life, she still had every intention of destroying his. When he asks her what she wants from him, she launches into this insanity-filled speech about wanting him to admit that he understands what’s happening, and then explaining that the GR’s purpose is to completely detach themselves from worldly belongings and emotions to become constant reminders of the Departed. We then get a third question answered (quite the record, this episode). It turns out that, after all this time, the culprits behind Gladys’ vicious stoning were the very members of the GR. How crazy are these people going to get? Patti then goes on to say that it will soon be Laurie’s turn and that Laurie is willing to endure it. Being the good guy that he is, Kevin then releases her, stating that he no longer cares what she does to his career, because he won’t allow her to drive him insane. Before he could leave, however, she picks up a shard of glass and stabs herself in the neck, telling him before dying in his arms that he does understand. This trick is as crazy as her all-white outfits, but I will admit that I will miss her, because she was one of the most compelling characters of the show.

The season is drawing to an end, so here’s hoping that more questions will be answered. HBO just announced that the show has been renewed for a second season, so there’s quite the possibility that this confusion will be extended to a season 2. I sincerely hope that we get a good enough reason to stick around after this season, because I’m not so sure that I have it in me to go through all of this a second time.

True Blood Season 7 Episode 9 “Love is to Die”: My Unsolicited Review

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“As much as I appreciate a compelling character drama… need I remind you to keep the fuck down volume-wise?” – Pam De Beaufort.

That quote pretty much summed up this episode. True Blood almost completely did away with action, and opted for a more character-driven episode. As most of you know, my favourite types of stories are those heavily motivated by character development, but in this case, I think that this decision was both good and bad. It was good because, as this is the very final season, there are a lot of character storylines that really needed the closure (Hoyt and Jessica for instance); at the same time, considering that there is only one episode left in the series, there seems to be far too much that hasn’t been resolved action-wise, to be left for only one episode, and I’m afraid that the show may wind up ending on a disappointing and unanswered note.

This episode picked up where last week’s left off – with Bill refusing to accept Sarah’s healing blood. Even though a lifeline was literally being thrown in his face, he was still opting to die from his Hep V infection. Sookie got in two really great slaps to his face, but Eric totally ruined it by stopping her third, because Bill deserved at least a good dozen more. What infuriates me most about his decision is that it’s a completely selfish move, yet the idiot is under the genuine impression that he’s doing it for selfless reasons… ugh, I swear, at this point I think he deserves the true death. Realising that he wasn’t going to change his mind, Jessica asks Bill to release her, which he did without argument. In his defence, the little speech that he gave her before releasing her was quite lovely, and very true… Jessica has come a remarkably long way as a vampire from the petulant little brat who got a thrill from finally being able to use swear words.

Show me the rest of the review and the GIFs, dammit!

Hotwire Releases Gay-Friendly Commercial Despite Gay-Unfriendly Morons

A few days ago, Hotwire released a commercial advertising what Hotwire always advertises: an affordable way to book hotels. What’s different this time around is that this new commercial depicts a gay couple, looking to spend the night out at a hotel. The ad features David Blacker, who blogs at Gays with Kids, and his real-life husband, Alex Goldstone, who are looking forward to spending their upcoming anniversary at a hotel, since their in-laws have agreed to babysit for them. It’s a funny and adorable commercial with Alex only wanting to sleep at the hotel, and David lamenting that that’s all his husband wants.

Of course, something wouldn’t be a positive and realistic portrayal of the LGBT community if One Thousand Nutjobs One Million Moms didn’t feel threatened enough to troll it so, naturally, that’s what they did. The chronically demented group took to their website to post:

Hotwire.com is in hot water with conservative families over their newest commercial. Consumers should be aware of the offensive ad because there are many other travel sites to choose from if parents are warned about this indecent ad.

…Hotwire.com is in hot water with conservative families over their newest commercial. Consumers should be aware of the offensive ad because there are many other travel sites to choose from if parents are warned about this indecent ad.

… Please send Hotwire.com an email letter asking them to pull their “Lucky Me” commercial immediately.

Honestly, the commercial depicts a cheeky yet completely common situation that heterosexual spouses have been claiming for ages: that being married with children often makes sleep the number one priority in the bedroom. However, based on One Million Moms’ insane message, you’d think that Hotwire were showcasing David and Alex go into graphic detail about gay sex, kinky leather action and grotesque bondage scenarios. To be honest, I don’t even find Three Dozen Sadsacks One Million Moms’ message offensive… I find it pathetic and laughable.

So, to the rest of you beautiful readers, especially my young gay readers who are one day hoping for a family just like Alex and David’s, I encourage you to ignore the idiocy directed at the commercial, and instead focus on a few other factors. Realise that David and Alex are a married couple with a kid! The reason they’re looking forward to a night out in the first place is because they’ve been run ragged by their child, which is a quintessential sign of a good parent. This isn’t limited at all to heterosexuals; same-sex couple are just as capable of being wonderful, doting parents. Recognise also that the two of them have been afforded the night out because they have parents who are willing to babysit for them. Just because the crazies over at A Handful of Basketcases One Million Moms can’t envision themselves being supportive if their own kids turn out to be gay, doesn’t mean that all parents are as hateful and narrow-minded. Don’t write off your parents just yet, just because they maybe make some ignorant comments sometimes. People are often intolerant to issues that they aren’t familiar with, but they can surprise you by how much they change after a bit of education.

Good for Hotwire for producing the ad in spite of the hate that they no doubt knew they would face, and good for couples like Alex and David for electing to have the families that they want in spite of the hate that they no doubt know they will continue to face.

Dylan O’Brien Does Teen Vogue

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Dylan O’Brien, star of MTV’s hit show Teen Wolf: The Chronicles of Stiles Stilinski (no, I refuse to accept that that’s not its official name), is the star of the highly anticipated movie, The Maze Runner. Banking on the success of the recent trend of movies with dystopian futures (The Hunger Games, Divergent), The Maze Runner is based on the YA novel of the same name, appealing to the tween, teen and young adult audience which makes these films such blockbusters. I’ve never read The Maze Runner, but I’m absolutely planning on doing so before the movie comes out… and you know for sure that I’m going to go see it, because you can’t go wrong with Dylan O’Brien and YA fiction.

Dylan O'Brien Teen Vogue 4

Dylan is featured in Teen Vogue’s September issue, and while I don’t think it’s as big a deal as American Vogue’s September issue, it’s still great to see him featured in any capacity. For the spread, he compares his widely-beloved Teen Wolf character, Stiles, and his new The Maze Runner character, Thomas. Thomas, he indicates, is more of an introverted and pensive person, while Stiles (as we all know) is an over-the-top hilarious pile of awesomeness. Dylan O’Brien is often the highlight of Teen Wolf, and his acting skills were really showcased last season with the whole nogitsunei story line. It will be really interesting to see his portrayal of such a different character in The Maze Runner.

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Cameron Monaghan Talks Shameless and The Giver with Interview Magazine

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Considering the multiple posts that I’ve written on Cameron Monaghan, I think it’s pretty safe to assume at this point that I have quite the thing for him. Cameron has been steadily promoting his upcoming film, The Giver, which boasts an incredible cast including Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and even Taylor Swift. Cameron’s hit Showtime series – and a personal favourite of mine – Shameless, is set to return for its fifth season this October.

Interview Magazine recently put up a post with Cameron Monaghan, in which he discussed his upcoming projects and his experiences in the entertainment industry. I recommend the read, because he comes off as both hilarious and intelligent. I’ll highlight some of my favourite parts of the interview.

On working with Meryl Streep in The Giver:

I had never really heard of her before. Someone told me she was an actress and she’d been in a few things, but I said, you know, whatever. She showed up and she seemed somewhat inexperienced, so I gave her a few pointers, and I think she has a decent career ahead of her. It’s always hard to tell these things in Hollywood, but I do think that she has some talent under there. I think she’s a diamond in the rough. [laughs] Yeah, it was one of those things where you admire and respect a person, and you watch them for almost your entire life—and she was definitely one of those people that inspired me throughout my career. Having a chance to have a scene with her was pretty unreal. To work with anyone you admire and respect, and have for a very long time, is a surreal thing. It was really exciting. I’m still excited that I got to do scenes with her.

It took me half of the second sentence to realise that he was being sarcastic, but I legit laughed out loud when it finally dawned on me.

On his preference for television or film:

It’s hard to pick a preference. Obviously, TV is longer form, and that’s sometimes a positive, and sometimes a more challenging thing. As an actor, you want to be able to have your character develop or transform in some way. When you’re acting on a show over the course of multiple seasons, you get to watch a character really grow and change, and go from one place to an entirely other place. At the same time, on film, it’s really nice to see that transformation from the beginning, reading the script, to know where he starts and where he ends, and be able to plan for that. I like both for different reasons, and I think I always plan to do both if I can.

That was a brilliant answer, and highly logical.

On the most difficult story arc to film on Shameless:

I think that what we’re filming right now is definitely difficult in this fifth season. Watching, in many ways, not only an evolution of a character, but a descent. We’re watching him tear himself apart, to hopefully rebuild himself in a better way, but in the process he’s—without giving anything away—he’s kind of losing it. It’s been tricky to find ways to play it without pushing it over the top, so it’s not exploitative of mental illness. That’s something I’ve been talking to the writers about being conscientious of.

For a quick refresher, in the finale of season four of Shameless, we found out that Ian is suffering from bipolar disorder just like his mother, Monica. The real potential issue came in the fact that Mickey, who is finally out with their relationship, refuses to have Ian go to a psychiatric hospital, insisting that they stay together. As such, we have no idea what exactly is going to happen, but this quote from Cameron makes it seem that Ian is going to get a lot worse before (or if) he gets better.

On a kinda sorta related note, Noel Fisher (Mickey) recently got engaged to his girlfriend, so major congrats to them both.

Check out Cameron Monaghan over at Interview.

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This is where you enter my head… I apologize

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