November 14, 2005
| November 14, 2005
There’s a long-shot in Bennett Miller’s Capote of a train traveling across the horizon line through the barren plains of Kansas that becomes one of film’s standout sequences of visual imagery. The train simultaneously breaks up the landscape but as it traces the desolate fields it fits so perfectly at the same time. The same could be said for Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a member of New York’s well-to-do and literati who can move within Holcomb, Kansas due to his disarming wit and charm. Capote’s world and that of Kansas could not be more distinct, but he sees something that resonates deeply within him in that part of America.
The film Capote follows the titular author’s years researching the horrific murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas for what would eventually become the landmark nonfiction novel In Cold Blood. When Capote and his research assistant Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) travel to Holcomb, he quickly realizes there’s too much material for a magazine piece; he then endeavors to craft a novel on the town’s reaction to the murders. Dressed dapperly in his expensive New York clothes and trademark scarf he integrates himself in small town Kansas and gains the trust of the investigating sheriff Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper). He also becomes very involved with the assailants Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino), which becomes the film’s primary focus after they are found guilty. While in prison the relationship between Capote and Perry Smith grows as the murderer goes through appeals and eventually sits on death row.
Hoffman’s performance as Capote works so effectively because we see the multiple, often-conflicting aspects of the author’s personality. Many scenes depict Capote’s well mannered charm among his high class intellectual world, but beneath this exterior is a darkness that the film explores. What would draw a man like Capote to Perry Smith? The film implicitly suggests a sexual attraction between the flamboyant Capote and Smith but more fully develops the two’s similar backgrounds. Like Smith, Capote came from a broken home and throughout their discussion Capote sees more of himself in the convicted murder. Capote, unique all his life through his speech and open homosexuality, probably felt a connection with Perry who grew up an orphan. Capote states at one point: “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door and I went out the front.” His work becomes an investigation into himself as much as the murders to explain how important our births become in determining our futures. Their two diverging paths could not be more different.
Capote’s inner conflicts become most heightened when he abandons Perry to achieve literary greatness. At first he helps the two murders, finding them proper lawyers in order to appeal their sentences. But once Capote realizes the great potential of his book he realizes his need for their executions. In a haunting scene Capote uses his trusting demeanor to tell Perry about his exhaustive efforts to help him when in fact we know it’s a complete lie. Pressured with the deadline for his book’s publication, stays of execution throw Capote into depression. When the executions finally get set, the news gives Capote joy but even he fully understands the price of that relief.
The written epilogue more fully conveys the film’s underlying thesis of In Cold Blood being the product of a Faustian-like bargain by stating Capote never finished another written work after that novel. Capote paid for literary fame with his emotional well being rather than his soul. This may be true in some regard but such an analysis seems too convenient and heavy handed. It is no doubt witnessing Smith’s and Hickock’s execution stayed with Capote his entire life.
Capote works well as a portrait of one of 20th century’s most unique figures at height of his craft. But as the film seems so aware of In Cold Blood’s future acclaim, so we are aware of the inevitable conclusion making the story drag towards the end. Nevertheless, look for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s name come Oscar time.
Archived article by Oliver Bundy Sun Staff Writer
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November 15, 2005
Nine weeks deep, and life is good. Or terrible. Whatever, you’re ugly. Amidst the Colts pushing for perfection, T.O. auditioning to secure a spot on the next season of The Surreal Life, and the Vikings doing their best imitation of Pamela and Tommy Lee, plenty has happened during the first half of the season. However, my blissful disposition stems from something far less sensational than those headline grabbers. I speak of the touchdown celebration, an act once considered so distasteful as to be deemed sacrilegious. The initial outcry has finally died down, and now – finally – the strutting and preening has become an established part of our Sunday afternoons, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. A brief history of the touchdown celebration – the conventional triumphant spike evolved into the Lambeau Leap, which then morphed into the Dirty Bird which finally gave birth to T.O.’s Sharpie incident (pom-pom incident, Dallas 50-yard-line incident, take your pick). Another way of interpreting this evolution: in under a decade the celebrations progressed from what were considered harmless antics to offensive demonstrations of unsportsmanlike conduct. As with many things in our society, as soon as the media fixated on these celebrations there were ready hordes poised to jump on the bandwagon. Mothers and Republicans across the nation labeled them as crude, insulting and disruptive. The celebrations were seen as unnecessary and obnoxious rather than creative and entertaining. They just “weren’t part of the game.” But let’s examine that for a moment. It seems to me that a touchdown is something worthy of celebrating. They add an extra dimension to the entertainment value of the sport. They are clever and imaginative. Some players go so far as to take time and energy to plan, prepare and practice a routine during the week prior to the upcoming game so they are ready for the spotlight when it hits come Sunday. In a game so often criticized as being overly violent and aggressive, touchdown celebrations offer fans an opportunity to see a lighter, more playful side of their athletic heroes. Of course, the NFL has complete jurisdiction over what constitutes “playfulness.” Last April, during an owners’ meeting, owners voted to allow officials to flag a team with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for any choreographed celebration involving more than a single player. The terms “prolonged,” “excessive,” and “premeditated” were used as a measure of what was and was not okay. I agree with the league’s decision to reprimand players for acting unprofessionally after scoring touchdowns, and I submit it is up to the commissioner and his henchman to make the ultimate decisions on what is and what is not acceptable. But part of me is lost as to why spiking a ball or taking a knee and crossing oneself is considered appropriate while doing a well-rehearsed and clever jig in the back of the end zone is criticized as tasteless. As “can he do that?” slowly transitions into “what’d he do this time?” it becomes clear that the touchdown celebration has effectively rooted itself in the sport. Nowadays, you can’t go three scores without watching Tony Gonzalez dunk a ball through the goalpost or Steve Smith show off his fencing skills, doing his best imitation of a pirate in Tampa Bay (pirate – buccaneer – witty). It may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. Almost a month ago, after Donovan McNabb hooked-up with T.O. for the first score of a game against the Chargers, Dan Dierdorf – one of CBS’ oldest and most veteran commentators – gave a more detailed and complete play-by-play recap of what Owens did after the catch than what he did to get open in order to make the catch. Dierdorf even went so far as to say “I’ve seen better” in reference to Terrell’s showboating. “Me too. I’ll give it a C-,” added his sidekick Dick Ensburg. A year ago this same duo would have chastised Owens for a similar action, and cited his behavior as an unwarranted distraction. What a difference an off-season makes. Chad Johnson was on Inside the NFL a few weeks ago. During the span of his interview with Chris Carter, he was – not surprisingly – asked about his habit to “overly” celebrate his touchdowns. Johnson answered candidly, “It’s hard to catch touchdowns. I work hard all week to get into the end zone, so when I do, I like to have fun.” Is this so wrong? When you think about it, there are few things better than dancing as a means of expressing joy. (I try to make it a habit to dance every time anything good happens to me. “A” on a test? I’m dancing. A free lunch at Trillium? I’m dancing. “2 Legit 2 Quit” comes on my iPod? You better believe I’m dancing.) The adage “we work hard, we play hard” is ringing in my ears. If Johnson can get into the end zone, I say let him do whatever the hell he wants. Same goes for Steve Smith, Joe Horn, and anybody else who feels the need to express himself. In the scandalous age of steroids, the whizzinator, and Ricky Williams, I think we should be free to get jiggy over something as pure as a touchdown. Heaven knows, if my fantasy life ever replaces my reality, and I catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game, be ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Ben Kopelman is a Sun Staff Writer. 2 Legit 2 Quit will appear every other Tuesday this semester. Archived article by Ben Kopelman
November 15, 2005
Worm poop. If you can sell that, you’ve got a knack for business. Now package that worm poop in old 20-ounce plastic bottles and convince major stores to carry it on their shelves. Get schools, stadiums, and businesses involved in a nationwide effort to collect those bottles. In your factory, employ more worms than you employ people – and then cover every square foot of it with graffiti. If possible. If you can do that, you’ve got a knack for revolution. “Don’t think about business the way you thought about business,” Tom Szaky, TerraCycle’s founder and chief executive officer tells Cornell students who work at the company’s Ithaca office. “If you have a good idea, we’ll make it real.” Szaky’s good idea was – literally – garbage. During their freshman year at Princeton, Szaky and his friend Jon Beyer scraped together $20,000 to find a way to mass-produce “worm poop” and sell it as an all-natural fertilizer. Think of kitchen composting on a larger scale and you’ll understand how TerraCycle got its start. It is the first consumer product to be made from and packaged in waste, according to the company’s website. “In the next 25 years, business will have to fundamentally change,” said Steve Kurz ’07, who started up the Ithaca office last year. “We can’t keep using resources the way that we have, so we have to find new ways.” “TerraCycle is eliminating the idea of garbage,” Kurz said. “We want to make it R to the fourth power – reduce, reuse, recycle, revolutionize.” This year, he’s assembled a team of seven Cornell students to expand TerraCycle’s presence in Ithaca. They are Devangi Nishar ’09, Danielle Haigh ’08, Mike Zhu ’08, Jenny Song ’08, Marcus Gallagher ’08, Gabriel Lewis ’06 and Brian Warshay ’06. “TerraCycle is the first company I’ve ever seen that has really applied deep sustainability in the way they think. They’re actually making waste a valuable resource,” said Lewis, who will focus on research and development. The company has wormed its way into Canadian big box stores and is starting to pop up in stores around the states, including GreenStar in Ithaca. This year the young company is projected to gross $500,000. “As a result of being environmentally conscious and socially responsible, not only do we not sacrifice anything on the financial side, we are actually more profitable,” Kurz said. Since TerraCycle packaging comes from consumer waste, anyone who can toss a plastic bottle into a bin has the potential to be part of the company’s production process. “Having people collect the bottles, you have a generation of Americans literally building the product,” Szaky said. Kurz’s team is working to creatively expand TerraCycle’s bottle collection initiative, Bottle Brigade. Their goal is to set up the largest ever national recycling drive, and they’ve started by reaching out to the local community. The group was at Pyramid Mall this Saturday promoting the product at the America Recycles Day event. Already, TerraCycle has been working to introduce Bottle Brigade at the Tampa Bay Lightning arena, and they are in advanced stages of negotiations with major companies about Bottle Brigade partnerships. Additionally, the group is bringing the program to local Ithaca schools. For every bottle schools can collect for TerraCycle, they receive five cents. They can either keep the money or donate it to a charity of their choice. They also have the option of preserving rain forest space in South America. Szaky, only 23, speaks to the Cornell team with the calm, assured tone of a seasoned businessman. “If we do this well – it is historic. You have a chance to really change the way consumers think,” he said. “He has a way of talking that really gets you excited about it – I think that’s the reason that TerraCycle has done well, he’s gotten people to believe that a college student can go ahead and make this successful,” Lewis said. “It’s going to be spectacular – either a spectacular disaster or a spectacular success – but it won’t be anything in between,” Szaky said. As he speaks, he peppers his vision with both encouragement and wisdom, setting the standard for TerraCycle’s business dealings. “Do not ever pretend,” he said, “that you know more than you do. The moment you make something up, it’s over. Make sure people know that you are a student. Every time you make a mistake, they’re going to help you even more; they’re going to help you grow.” “You have to be kind. You have to be honest,” Szaky said. “Hearing him talk really made me feel like I was a part of something important and groundbreaking,” Haigh said. “Steve and Tom really make you believe that this company will change how business is done.” While Nishar is in charge of setting up the schools program, Haigh is working with sororities to introduce Bottle Brigade on campus. “Whichever house has raised the most money by the end of the year will receive all the money earned from every house to put towards their own philanthropy,” she said. Meanwhile, Gallagher is finding ways to introduce the collection program on a large-scale level in certain states. “This could potentially blow up and be huge,” he said. Kurz explains that if they can implement Bottle Brigade state-wide, it would “effectively turn non-Bottle Bill states into Bottle Bill states through TerraCycle’s collection efforts.” ‘Bottle Bill’ states are those that offer deposits on returned recyclables. The company’s small size makes it possible for students to have a large impact. “I’m more involved than I thought I was going to be allowed to be,” Warshay said. “We can call up the main company and get any information when we need it. I have Tom’s cell phone number, can just call him.” “TerraCycle does business in a different way,” Kurz explained. From inviting local graffiti artists to decorate their Trenton factory to housing summer interns in a “Real World” style house and producing a reality-TV infomercial, the company is keeping business fresh. “It’s a little more exciting than I expected – Steve made this so dynamic. Our input counts,” said Zhu, who is working to bring Bottle Brigade to other university campuses. “We have a lot of energy; we could probably find people at other universities with the same kind of fervor as us.” “This company is extremely appealing to college students. It’s something that kids want to be a part of when they hear about it,” Kurz said. “I thought it was a great, environmentally-conscious company,” said Warshay when asked why he joined TerraCycle. Zhu was also attracted by the company’s successful environmentally friendly model. “I’ve never seen it done before,” he said. And what does Kurz like best about TerraCycle? “It doesn’t taste too bad.” When you’re a guy selling worm poop, a sense of humor counts.Archived article by Irena Djuric Sun Staff Writer