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Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

This is the time of year when retrospectives abound. I spent the weekend perusing the Internet, watching a little TV and reading this and that magazine. You pretty much know what everyone was focusing on, which is to say everything from the Presidential race and the deaths of various political and cultural icons over the past year to the overexposed shenanigans of our rehab/jailhouse-bound celebrities young and not so young. Being fond of taking the unique view, I’ve chosen to highlight those activities and events that seem to have largely slipped past the media searchlights to offer my own perspective on the year just about to expire. Herewith, my list:

Most Overlooked Event of 2007: The Virginia Tech Massacre has scarcely merited a mention, perhaps because of the dangerously intrusive way in which it was handled by the media.

Irony Award: The discovery that skin cells might be able to mimic and eliminate the need for embryonic stem cells, thus deflating what was a truly hot-button issue at the beginning of the year

Sports Upset: Not A-Rod or Torre or the Sox or the doping report but the Philadelphia Phillies, who after amassing the most losing record of any major sports franchise in history (10,000 losses) in July, went on in September to win the National League East Division

Where Was That Uprising: Burma, AKA Myanmar, only one of several hot spots this year experiencing uprisings but hard to track because of we didn’t know which name the media was using on any given day.

Reason for Despair Division: Crime rates in cities like Newark, Camden and Philadelphia; the upswing in diabetes and obesity; the failure of the U.S. policy of “democracy promotion” and the lack of a credible alternative plan (actually, that’s been in the news quite a bit but it bears repeating); the television writers’ strike; 2008 is an election year.

Reason for Hope Division: Skin cells and stem cells (see above); anything Mike Bloomberg does in New York; more celebrities coughing up more money than ever before (I don’t care why they’re doing it; they’re committing real time and real money and bringing real attention to real problems); 2008 is an election year.

Well, the calendar will change whether we want it to or not, so bring it on. At least we’ll get an extra day in 2008 to sort it all out.

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On a humid gray Friday in mid-October when you have to wonder who forgot to order autumn or if Florida has decided to punish us for relocating our populations down there all these years by relocating its weather to the Northeast – on such an icky, sticky morning, it won’t do to dwell on the news. I mean, what do we have here: the House sustains the President’s veto on providing health care for uninsured children, because we wouldn’t want to start a trend of calling on government to aid its poorest citizens. Or how about the unrest, following the return of former Prime Minister Bhutto, in an already unstable Pakistan, whose alliance forms the cornerstone of our shaky Mid-East policy? Now that inspires confidence. Oh, the Coast Guard will be able to establish an operating base in the Arctic Ocean because the summers are warm enough now and because they want to be prepared to help clean up the environmental damage that will undoubtedly be caused by ships now seeking passage through the Bering Strait. Good to be prepared, right? For slightly lighter but not exactly happier news, we could read about the breakup of French President Sarkozy’s marriage or the bungled manner in which Yankees’ management handled their decision on Joe Torre. But I found something to brighten my day and it’s only a mouse-click away. No, it’s not pictures of cute puppies or heartwarming tales of reunited families. However, if you want to indulge your inner mean girl (or guy), break out the chocolates, pour yourself another cup (and don’t worry if you’re at the office – just be smart about noting who’s looking over your shoulder) and enjoy the reviews.

I’m talking about hitting up the movie section on MSN and going directly to “Celebrities Undressed,” a delightfully bitchy look at what some of our favorite famous ladies (and occasionally a few guys) wore to the latest red-carpet affair. Not being a celebrity blogger, I don’t follow the dish that regularly flows from sites like Perez Hilton or TMZ. But for a quick fix of low-cost, low-impact nastiness, the dressing-down of dressed-up stars can’t be beat. You can then return to your task, whether it’s crunching numbers, raising your kids, raising other people’s kids , waiting tables or waiting for the world to change, secure in the knowledge that no celebrities were seriously harmed during the making of your moment of fun during a dreary day.

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The new season of Lost, ABC’s hit TV show, is one of the few that doesn’t debut this week; fans have to wait until February 08. Still there was enough lost in the past week to make one’s head spin. The Mets’ roller coaster season ended in a stunning loss last weekend. Britney Spears lost custody of her kids and could lose her dog too, if PETA has its way. Then Larry Craig lost his bid to remove his guilty plea for misconduct in Minneapolis but chose to stay in the Senate despite having already lost several key committee positions. Fred Thompson has certainly lost some of his luster as a candidate, if his recent performances are any indication. On a far more serious note, a distraught mother of three trying to make a plane to take her to a rehab facility lost her life in a holding cell in a Phoenix airport under somewhat suspicious circumstances. Myanmar, aka Burma, lost contact with the outside world when the repressive government attempted to shut off all communications in order to deflect attention away from its brutality against pro-democracy forces. Soldiers and civilians alike continue to lose their lives in Iraq and elsewhere in this troubled world of ours. I’m wondering, not for the first time, if here in the US, we’ve lost our way. Mostly I’m still waiting to hear exactly what our leaders, present and future, are going to do about it. And I don’t want to wait until February of 08 to find out.

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New York City has recently been host to other events besides President Ahmadinejad ‘s visit. For example, the Clinton Global Initiative just concluded its three-day conference. The organization was begun three years ago by former President Clinton with the goal of turning “good intentions into real results” through commitments to programs or actions in one of four areas: education, energy and climate change, global health and poverty alleviation. Membership in the organization is by invitation only. The conference this year brought together an assortment of people: current and former heads of state, business leaders, noteworthy academicians, and key non-profit representatives, along with some serious celebrity star power, courtesy of Shakira, the ever-present Jolie-Pitt team and Andre Agassi. Also present were folks like Tony Blair and Al Gore who bring their own brand of celebrity in the way certain ex-politicians do these days. The media was represented by people like the ubiquitous Rupert Murdoch as well as noted columnist Nicholas Kristof, who looked both delighted and stunned to be interviewing the stunning Ms. Jolie. At first, it appeared to be another one of those high-powered conferences, cerebral yet sexy, complete with notable invitees, fabulous food, stimulating conversation, important papers and press releases, all followed by plans for another conference. But appearances can be deceiving. CGI demands not only answers but action. Registration is $15,000 for the event, but all the money in the world won’t get you invited back if you don’t live up to your commitment. Real programs are initiated or continued, like the rebuilding program in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward to which Brad Pitt is committed, bluntly and appealingly called “Make It Right.”

Mr. Clinton is expanding the reach of the organization in two ways, by reaching out to college campuses and allowing those of us with less money, clout or celebrity to become involved through its new website. Even though you and I may never get to hang with all the movers and shakers and beautiful people, we could conceivably be part of a vast private effort to right the world’s wrongs. Sure, it sounds naive but it also sounds lots more helpful than those conferences that produce ideas but no follow-through. This could be one group that, by virtue of its cross-cultural influence and PR savvy, might actually be able to make it right – or at least a little better.

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I don’t obsess about death, well, at least not much more than any normal midlife person who’s experienced several very personal losses over the past few years. But today’s papers seemed to showcase more than a few significant obituaries – renowned filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, talk show host Tom Snyder, and coaching great Bill Walsh. Although 71 (Snyder’s age) may seem a little young compared with Bergman’s 89 years, both men, as well as Coach Walsh, could be described as having reached and passed the pinnacles of their professional careers. Still, Snyder and Walsh were felled by cancer, which makes it seem as if they were stopped just short of the finish line. But if the deaths of formerly public figures catch me off-guard, the health concerns of active public figures definitely pack a punch. That’s why I was startled to note (also in today’s paper) that Chief Justice John Roberts, at fifty-two the youngest member of the Court, suffered a mild seizure of unknown origin over the weekend. Yeah, I admit I wondered for a minute what it meant for the future of the judicial branch, just as I have speculated in the past about the state of Dick Cheney’s heart or George Bush’s colon and the state of the nation. I’m only human, after all. So are our public figures, subject to the same unpredictable variables that catch us all off-guard.

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I am amazed that getting into prison is becoming so de rigeur it’s downright fashionable. I mean, there was Nicole Richie, mulling over her own impending incarceration on David Letterman, giggling that “everyone goes to jail.” Maybe she was nervous. Or maybe she was resorting to a variation of the “everyone’s doing it” line of reasoning, which usually covers everything from hard partying among the privileged set to false testimony in front of this or that agency or committee. But I don’t think the young celebs are as blase about getting locked up as they pretend to be, notwithstanding the glamorous mug shot of Paris Hilton. Sure, jail time can revive a fading career but the food is awful and there are no cell phones. That may be why Ms. Hilton was released to her home this morning due to an “unspecified medical condition” after serving only three days of her sentence. According to an Associated Press article, “her new lockup is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom, Spanish-style home on .14 acres above the Sunset Strip.” Bummer.

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It’s a slow day when all I have to do is read about Alex Baldwin’s angry voicemail to his daughter. Now that’s real YouTube fodder. Contemplating the Baldwin backlash, I detect hints of a sympathy vote in the blogosphere for the volatile but beleaguered dad. Who hasn’t been tempted to lose one’s temper with an uncommunicative child? Oh, and leaking a private telephone message to the press? He gets extra points for coming up against some dirty fighting. I was actually enjoying the articles and talk show segments that popped up in the wake of the Alex attacks, offering parenting tips like how to talk to a tween. See, some good can come from this long-running and ugly saga of bitterness. I’d suggest another life lesson here: always erase the draft voicemail or e-mail you’ve written in anger. The first words that come into your head when you’re ticked off are the last ones you want to send.

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