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Pop Culture

'Brokeback Mountain' director wrote a moving tribute to Heath Ledger 15 years after his death

Hard to believe he's been gone that long.

heath ledger, ang lee, brokeback mountain

Heath Ledger in 2006.

“Brokeback Mountain,” Ang Lee’s beautiful film about love and repression, was a turning point for LGBTQ cinema in 2005 because it was one of the few mainstream Hollywood films to put a love story between two men front and center.

These days, such a film would hardly raise eyebrows, but 17 years ago it was the subject of scorn from conservative circles for pushing the “gay agenda.” Its stars, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, took considerable risks making the film because it could have jeopardized their status as leading men. But their pitch-perfect performances helped make the edgy material relatable to the general public.

Film critic Roger Ebert perfectly explained why the story resonated with people in his 2005 review. "'Brokeback Mountain' has been described as 'a gay cowboy movie,' which is a cruel simplification,” he wrote.


"It is the story of a time and place where two men are forced to deny the only great passion either one will ever feel,” he added. “Their tragedy is universal. It could be about two women, or lovers from different religious or ethnic groups—any 'forbidden' love."

Fifteen years after Ledger’s death, Lee praised his performance in Empire magazine’s Greatest Actors issue. As a director, Lee was able to explain why his subtle performance as Ennis, a repressed cowboy, worked perfectly in the film in ways that the general public may have missed.

“Heath Ledger was a brilliant young actor. God only knows what he would have achieved later in life. He had so much talent—I’m sure he would have been a great director,” Lee wrote in Empire.

“Brokeback Mountain has the elegiac mood of a Western and an inner-twisted repression—Ennis is a very repressed character, macho but gay, gay but homophobic—and often there is no vocabulary to express his feelings," Lee continued. "So Heath’s aura powers the whole story. He did a lot of preparation, mostly on his own. And he often surprised me with what he brought to his work.”

Any actor can “go big” and chew up the scenery with a flashy performance, but portraying a character with nuance is a lot harder.

“What stays with me is the nuance, the quieter moments,” Lee wrote. “The trick is to know how to turn a performance down and still shape it. There is a scene I remember very clearly, where an old girlfriend [Linda Cardellini] runs into Ennis at a diner. Ennis is alone, eating a slice of apple pie. Linda is acting her heart out, she’s in tears, confronting Ennis: ‘Why did you do this?’ But she doesn’t get a word from him. Throughout the whole scene, Heath does nothing: he just eats the apple pie. But watching the dailies, the crew were all crying too, saying, ‘Just leave the guy alone!’ I both understood, and cherished, Heath’s quietness, the subtlety of the moment, and how he carried himself in that scene. We are all very lucky we were able to make movies with an actor of that calibre. He had a God-given gift.”

It is sad to contemplate the incredible talent taken from the world when Ledger died at the young age of 28. But by creating a character that helped mainstream America understand that heterosexual love isn’t the only type worth fighting for, he helped to create a better world for so many who didn't have a voice.

Ledger had the perfect response to a reporter who said people may be disgusted by the film.

“It's obviously about two men in love and it's obviously gay-themed and it's very easily labeled, but unfortunately, people are quick in life to label something that they're uncomfortable with,” Ledger said at a press conference. “The pure fact of it is that it transcends a label. It's human. It's a story of two human beings, two souls who are in love. Get over the fact it's two men. That's the point…

"And if you can't understand that, just don't go see the movie," Ledger concluded.

True

Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.

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Joy

Doggo loses his mind with joy when he finds out he's going to visit Grandma and Grandpa

Sound up for this one because Nosh REALLY loves his grandparents.

Nosh freaked when he found out they were going to see Safta and Boppa.

Eagerly anticipating a trip to the fun and doting grandparents' house is something we think of children doing, but one couple's doggo proves that visiting the "grandpawrents" is just as exciting.

In a TikTok video that's been viewed nearly 30 million times, dog owners Skylar and Deko are nearing the end of a 20-hour drive from Phoenix to Kansas City, Missouri. Their good doggo named Nosh, sits in the backseat, looking out the front window.

Suddenly, Skylar asks Nosh if he wants to go visit Safta and Boppa, the nicknames of his grandparents, and he immediately reacts. You can practically hear him say, "Whut? Grandma and Grandpa? Are you serious?!? OMG, I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!!! When are we gonna get there?!?" only it comes out as a series of squeals and whimpers and sneezy woofs of joy.

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Pop Culture

A-ha's stripped-down, slowed-down performance of 'Take On Me' is a must-see

The slower tempo and simple instrumentation creates a sadder, more haunting version of the 80s monster hit.

A-ha performing live for MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice

According to NPR—and the ABBA blaring from my young adult daughter's headphones—we're in the midst of an 80s music revival. As a Gen Xer who came of age in the 80s, I think most of that decade should stay locked in a time capsule, but there are a few songs that have managed to remain timeless despite the synthesizers and bad hair.

A-ha's "Take On Me" is one of them. Despite its consummately-80s sound, the song with the famous sketch animated video is still enjoyable (if not a little earwormy—good luck once it gets stuck in your head).

But a lesser-known 2017 arrangement of the song is actually, miraculusly, even better. A-ha performed "Take On Me" for an MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice album, and it's significantly different than the original. The Norwegian band filmed the performance live on the island of Giske, dropping the electric piano as well as the tempo for a stripped-down version that has become a fan favorite. As of this writing, the video has 97 million views on YouTube.

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@davidcsmalley/TikTok

But can she start it?

David C. Smalley, a comedian and podcaster, regularly gives us some generational humor by exposing his 19-year-old daughter Talissa to relics of the past. You know, things like CDs, phonebooks, remote controllers…feeling old yet?

Recently, Smalley challenged Talissa with navigating a standard U-Haul storage truck. She had to 1) unlock the door 2) roll down a window and 3) start the engine.

For those of us who grew up before the 90s, this might sound like the easiest challenge ever. But apparently, for Gen Z, it’s like being asked to maneuver a horse and buggy.
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Humor

Woman finds out her best friend has 'strange pets' in delightfully unhinged video

The pets kept getting weirder and weirder as the story goes on.

Woman's best friend reveals her secret strange pets

We tell our best friends everything, right? But even knowing your friend's deepest darkest secrets don't always prepare you for what they may reveal unprompted. For Mary Howe, she found out her best friend had a weird quirk that she just wasn't prepared to hear on their 4 AM trip to the airport. Howe's friend is a biologist, which may or may not be important information.

On the way to drop her friend off to catch her flight back out of town, the soon to be airborne bestie revealed she had to hurry home to her pet praying mantis. This information was a bit jarring for Howe but it was when she found out that the praying mantis was left out in the apartment, laid eggs on the ceiling that she started to question her friends sanity.

But the strange pet saga was just beginning in the most randomly unhinged story about pets on the internet.

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