Mel Gibson: behaving worse than a beast

The Thinker by Rodin

Wouldn’t it be nice if our star actors and actresses were as wonderful and as interesting in person as the characters they portray? Some of them doubtless are, but some of them are also like Mel Gibson who, at least when he is drunk or under stress, behaves like an angry and psychotic asshole.

Should you have the stomach to hear for yourself, you can listen to two Mel Gibson cell phone rants with his now ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Oksana is also the mother to their daughter Lucia, born in October 2009. In the calls, a distressed, raving and hyperventilating Mel Gibson is very upset with Oksana for many alleged transgressions, for which he repeatedly calls her a “bitch” and terms much, much worse than that. Her many egregious sins apparently include falling asleep in bed with him before first giving him a blowjob and not making the bed in the morning.

Presumably, Oksana taped these calls as evidence in future custody proceedings. I am not entirely sure that surreptitiously recording these calls is legal, but they certainly are a window into Mel’s soul. I assume that Mel had been drinking when he made these calls. Heaven help the man if he was not. Mel’s propensity toward inebriation has gotten him in trouble before, most famously in 2006 when he was arrested for driving under the influence, and subsequently made anti-Semitic remarks to the arresting officers. After that arrest, Gibson reputedly underwent therapy for alcohol addiction. These phone calls suggest the therapy did not take.

Aside from being a depressant, alcohol is also known for reducing inhibitions and they are in full display in these phone calls. Thank goodness Mel and Oksana were at least separated in physical space. If someone went off like this with me in the same room, I would be rushing for the exit. People like Mel make an excellent rationale for owning a firearm, which statistics show is most likely to be used in a homicide to kill an intimate. If I were Oksana and had been in the same room with him when he said these things, I would be reaching for the gun because Mel sounded angry enough to use one himself. I might even have used preventively.

Love, alcohol, family history and bad genetics can make us behave like beasts. However, Mel behaved worse than a beast. Most members of the animal kingdom are not naturally angry or cruel. They kill primarily to survive. They will rarely lose control, even when their lives are in danger. Losing control when your life is in danger is an excellent way to die.

Just for the record, Mel, words like c*nt, bitch and whore simply mean that you believe that some women are not quite human. By labeling a woman this way, you are essentially saying that they are subhuman, so they might as well be slaughtered and turned into Solyent Green. Just to utter these words to a woman, but really anyone, says that you believe they should be stripped of their humanity, integrity and personhood. They should not be uttered at all, no matter how much you personally dislike someone. Now it is okay, though not polite to call someone an asshole, as I called you, when they have clearly earned the title. With your reckless and unrestrained actions toward a woman, you clearly demonstrated that you are an asshole. You also are mentally ill and need more help.

You are not, however, a prick, which, like c*nt, would suggest you are nothing more than your sex organ, although from these phone calls it would be hard not to make the inference. We know you are not a prick because can see the better Mel in your movies. Perhaps you have turned to directing movies in part to exert control over some sphere of your life since it is lacking in others.

It sounds like much of your anger was due to other life events. It sounds like you are financially overextended and you were taking it out on Oksana. So sorry you had to give up your L.A. Lakers box. I really doubt, as you allege, that Oksana cost you five million dollars. However, even if she did, it was your decision to allow her to spend the money. You two are not even married!

It sounds like you are getting therapy. You need more. A lot more. It may be time to change therapists because it doesn’t look like your therapy has been very effective. Certainly there are women out there who are gold diggers and as thoughtless and emotionally abusive. In fact, I have known a few. Maybe I got lucky, but none of them said or implied that I was worthless. In that sense, they bested you.

You crossed a line, but what your raving remarks truly reveal is not that Oksana is worthless, but that some part of you believes that you too are worthless. You are not. You have been emotionally abusive (which research suggests you learned from your family) and show every likelihood of being so in the future, unless you can change. So please, find a better therapist. Heal yourself, man. Perhaps someday, you will understand that certain words and certain tones of voice do not just scratch, they maim, sometimes for life. The most likely one to be maimed though is not the victim, who may have some feelings of self worth and integrity, but the perpetrator who is already maimed and is now more so.

I am wishing you a speedy healing.

Following Jewel Staite

The Thinker by Rodin

I am still trying to figure out this Twitter thing. Its success is counterintuitive. I can see why it is interesting to follow a conversation, but its 140-character limitation (made necessary by the maximum of 160 characters allowed in cell phone text messages) would seem a fatal liability. Granted, it is nice to be able to push an instant message to the most lame and technology impaired devices, i.e. non-internet accessible cell phones. In time, the text message barrier will be overcome. All cell phones, even the cheap ones, will be Internet accessible. 160-character text messages will become as obsolete as Morse code.

In fact, if you want to follow someone or a conversation, doing it via a cell phone text message is inefficient, even when limited to 140 characters. Most cell phone networks charge per text message. Tweets are nothing if not voluminous. Moreover, tweets are not exactly instant. The closest we have to real real-time electronic conversation is instant messaging. Otherwise you have to wait until your Twitter client decides to poll for new tweets or Twitter can push the tweet to your cell phone. For most of us, if we really want to follow someone in real-time we had best be Internet accessible, and using a desktop application like Tweetdeck.

Granted it is neat to watch comments on trending topics on Twitter, although like anything else the vast majority of these tweets are about as interesting as a chat room conversation. When following a hot topic like the Iranian elections you might learn something in a Twitter topic that you will not find any other way. Yet Twitter, like any other social medium, is on the cusp of being abused. I had a “lady” follow me the other day (I have a number of Twitter accounts) who is your run of the mill sex scammer. If I follow her because she follows me, I am an unwitting accomplice in her spam network. Like the voluminous spam on Craigslist, without rigorous controls that I doubt Twitter can fully put in place, Twitter is likely to turn into 98% spam in no time flat.

While I try to figure out what Twitter means by reading erudite articles like this one, I watch the other Twitterer in my house, in this case my wife, to find out what she is doing with Twitter. Aside from following her host of online friends, she is also following celebrities. Fortunately, her taste in celebrities is rather specialized, people like Eddie Izzard and this guy. So I thought I would follow a celebrity to see what all the fuss is about. I decided to follow Jewel Staite.

Most likely, you are saying, “Who the heck is Jewel Staite?” That’s a good question because she is hardly a well known star, and at best she is a minor movie star. She is more of a television actress than a movie actress, most recently known for her character Dr. Jennifer Keller in Stargate: Atlantis and as Kaylee Frye in the short-lived Fox TV series Firefly where I fell in lust with her. Jewel played the ship’s grease monkey, but she had all the attributes I was looking for in a lust object: cute, apple cheeked, young, attractive, sweet, but with a smoldering sensuality. Although Canadian, she seemed more American than apple pie, the perfect sort of girl to have next door, fall in love with and live with happily ever after.

Kaylee is of course a character, but what of the actual woman Jewel Staite? What would I glean from following Jewel? She may be a minor celebrity but as of this morning, she has 13,927 followers whereas I have eleven people following me. Is Jewel anything like Kaylee, or Dr. Keller? It is hard to say for sure. With 13,927 followers Ms. Staite clearly doesn’t need any stalkers, so what she does reveal about herself is necessarily pretty superficial. Good for her. Some politicians could learn to be more discreet about what they post on Twitter.

Jewel is married which would be a disappointment if I were not twice her age and married myself. Having spent years hanging around Josh Whedon and the Stargate: Atlantis crowd, unsurprisingly many of Jewel’s friends are fellow actors, directors and producers. It sounds like work in Vancouver has been drying up, so she is currently in Los Angeles. From her tweets, I learn intimate details like she currently has a head cold, but stopped by a Borders yesterday anyhow. She has a passion for food (which suggests that she has an excellent personal trainer) and can be found at somewhat obscure LA area restaurants. She is no vegetarian. She also likes the theater and recently saw Michael Winslow in concert. Dark colored toilet seats disturb her. Does she have a germ phobia? Is this too much information?

Watching Jewel through the filter of Twitter is like watching someone through a pane of translucent glass. You sort of know what’s going on but mostly you do not, seeing shadows and hearing muffled voices but missing context. Still, it is clear to me that Jewel and I live in largely different universes. If real life put us together, I am not sure we could hold a conversation that lasted more than a couple of minutes. She likes good tacos, and I know of a few places locally, so we could perhaps do a light lunch or something. Or perhaps she could stop by to see me on her way to Paris. She recently intimated she had booked a hotel room in Paris.

If the translucent glass between Jewel and I were somehow clear glass, perhaps there would be much more of interest to discover. More likely I would become disillusioned. I know intellectually that actresses put their pants on one leg at a time just like me, but somehow I hope there is more there than someone like me, an ordinary human being. From Jewel’s tweets, she appears to be ordinary too. I doubt she would find much of interest about me, but perhaps she is brainy enough to find my blog interesting. It is clear that aside from our age differences we are on vastly different paths through life. We inhabit the same planet, breathe the same air, speak the same language and have inherited many of the same customs but there is not much else from what I can tell from watching her through Twitter.

Which means there is probably not much point in following her, so at some point I will probably unfollow her. I hope in the years ahead she dazzles us with her fine acting ability. It is likely that whatever her age I will find her attractive. If I am to follow a celebrity, perhaps I need a woman closer to my age and whose intellect appears to be more aligned with mine. I hope Madonna tweets.

I do agree with her about dark toilet seats though.

Oh, the humanity!

The Thinker by Rodin

It is completely impossible to ignore Paris Hilton when she is in the news. I wish I could ignore her, but unfortunately, the media will not let me. They figure I want to know all about her tawdry little life as the exceedingly spoiled and obnoxious heiress of the Hilton estate. The latest vital news bulletin assaulting me on Yahoo! News is that after three days in the clink for violating the terms of her probation (driving on a suspended license) the Los Angeles County sheriff sent her home to serve her sentence because of an “unspecified medical condition”. To make sure she did not resume her habit of driving drunk or going 70 miles an hour without headlights in the dark on a 35 mile an hour road, she was required to wear an ankle bracelet and not leave her house. Now Paris is being hauled in front of the judge again to see if she should go back to jail. Of course, poor Paris, probably because of her unspecified “medical condition”, wanted to “phone in” her court hearing.

I did not want to know any of this. However, now that I know I want to fly to Los Angeles, find Paris and slap her on both cheeks. That might get me thrown into the clink too for assault, but it would be worth it. Maybe Paris and I can get adjoining cells. This is unlikely though. Because she is a celebrity and I am not she gets special treatment. She is housed in a special wing of the Los Angeles County jail for people like her. Lord knows that is punishment enough; interacting with ordinary lawbreakers would amount to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional. One thing is for sure. Even if Paris and I were in jail together, the Los Angeles County sheriff would not be releasing me to home custody for an unspecified medical condition, despite my inflamed hangnail.

Yes, of course Paris should serve her 23-day sentence, which has already been cut in half from the original 45-day sentence. She should serve it to demonstrate that no one, including celebrities, is above the law. The reality of course is that with a few exceptions the rich and the famous do get a higher tier of, er, service from the judicial branch.

Most of us though when we are in the presence of a celebrity lose all sense of perspective, which is likely what happened to this sheriff. We are too awed simply being caught in their aura to impartially appraise them as fellow Homo sapiens. There is something about being a celebrity, or just plain beautiful, that interferes with our prefrontal cortexes. Celebrities of course know this. This is the one muscle they have that operates reflexively. So it is a natural law that they will use their talent, charm and ready reserves of cash to ensure they keep living in their artificial bubble, free from any kind of pain or inconvenience.

You have to understand that Paris is suffering, poor dear. She is used to five star hotels. Can you imagine the shame and humiliation of being sent to a common county jail and forced to sleep on a thin mattress? To make your own bed every morning? To be woken up at an inconvenient hour and being told when to do things like eat and take a shower? Oh, the humanity! Three days apparently was sufficient for her to feel total repentance. “I am going to serve the remaining 40 days of my sentence,” she said today. “I have learned a great deal from this ordeal and hope that others have learned from my mistakes.”

Yes, she has learned that three days in jail is enough for a Hilton heiress, who should never have been subjected to such an indignity in the first place. The very idea! Not to fret. Even though she is at home, the remaining 37 days will be just as rough on her. After all, she cannot dash off on her private jet anytime she wants to for a while. She is limited to her tiny palatial estate, her toys, her closets full of shoes, her cell phone and her many airhead celebrity friends. Imagine the powerful lesson she will learn when she is forced to get up whenever she feels like it. Doubtless, she will be crying in shame when she takes those laps in her private pool.

However, I am all for an alternative sentence. I think Paris should spend her remaining 37 days, not in the Los Angeles County jail, but in Darfur. There she can do some community service, perhaps by handing out Giorgio Armani handbags to the raped and pillaged women who have to call these squalid and unsafe refugee camps home. For the children, DVD’s of the Telatubbies are in order. Bring many cases of Evian water, Paris. I am sure the women there will be quite grateful. It would be thoughtful to give them 50% off coupons for their next visit at a Hilton hotel or resort. Spread the love, Paris!

One thing going against her is that because she is a particularly obnoxious spoiled celebrity, American’s dander has been raised. Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors report over 400 angry emails and hundreds of phone calls from the public all with one common theme: put that chick back in the clink! Paris should count her blessings. The days of the French Revolution are long past. Instead of a mob leading her to a guillotine, she just has to spend a few uncomfortable weeks on a thin mattress and then go back to her surreal opulent and spoiled life. Perhaps she can tell her harrowing story in a Barbara Walters exclusive interview.

I will be happy if she just serves out her tiny little sentence. I know that most celebrities will continue to get a different standard of justice than the rest of us. However, I am particularly grateful that this 26-year-old spoiled brat finally had her comeuppance, modest though it may be. She will soon be back living her bubble, but for a few weeks, she will have glimpsed an entirely new world called reality.

The Minuses of Don Imus

The Thinker by Rodin

I am not a Don Imus fan. Come to think of it, I am not a fan of any syndicated radio talk show host, except possibly Diane Rehm. At best, I only get around to listening to her show sporadically and on my days off. Like most of us hard working Americans, I do not have the time to tune in to regularly syndicated talk shows. If I did a lot of driving alone then perhaps I would be regularly listening to the Don Imuses and Howard Sterns out there. I can see where listening to shock jocks would be entertaining if I spent a lot of time in a car. If nothing else, listening would help me not fall asleep at the wheel. I suspect that shock jocks primarily depend on commuters and truckers for their audiences.

Shock jock Don Imus, of course, is very much in the news now. Last Wednesday, he said about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, which is predominantly African American, “That’s some nappy-headed hos there, I’m going to tell you that.” Apparently, not all of his estimated 361,000 listeners are Republicans or bigots. It did not take long for the non-bigots among us, and African American leaders in particular, to state the obvious: his remark was racist and offensive to most of us.

If there were any of us who had any illusions about Imus’ true character, this remark clarified it. Imus has since apologized and sought absolution by groveling for two hours during Al Sharpton’s radio show. Many now want Don Imus kicked off the airwaves permanently. Some are petitioning CBS and MSNBC (which syndicate his show) to make it happens. CBS and MSNBC have responded by giving Don Imus a two-week suspension in the hope that the controversy will cool off. Clearly, they do not want to get rid of Don Imus, unless he becomes toxic to their balance sheet. Even if they fire him, there is an apparently a sizeable market for Imus’ snide, sarcastic and frequently derogatory remarks. Some other syndicate would pick him up. If worst came to worst, he could avoid FCC fines by joining Howard Stern on Sirius Satellite Radio. There he could probably make more money and he would never have to worry about censorship again. Imus could be Imus.

Unfortunately, I have been exposed to Don Imus on a regular basis. This is because for a couple years in the late 1990s I carpooled to an office in DC with two staunch Republicans. This was in the middle of the Monica Lewinski affair. Imus, as well as Rush Limbaugh and many others, were practically catatonic over the so-called scandal. I guess expecting Imus not to talk about Bill Clinton and semen stained blue dresses for months at a time was to expect the impossible. In retrospect, that whole matter was ridiculous and vastly overblown. Not only was Don Imus no paragon of moral virtue (he is both a recovering alcoholic and former cocaine addict) but he reveled and regurgitated each salacious detail endlessly. He was like someone from the Moral Majority informing us about the sin taking place at a topless dancing establishment by providing detailed descriptions of just how puffy each dancer’s nipples were. He shamelessly pimped the affair. Doubtless it was great for his bottom line. The sad truth about Don Imus and his listeners at that time were that they secretly identified with Bill Clinton. Don Imus allowed them to talk about these details and have fun with it. By projecting all that scorn on Clinton, they drew attention away from their own fascination with loose women, lying and infidelity. Among these men was former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who, as we learned recently, was busy having an affair himself in the middle of the Lewinski scandal. Anyhow, by the time I arrived at work I often wanted to take a shower.

Imus of course is in the entertainment business, not the news business. His specialty though is developing rapport with many political insiders. I do not know whom he has been talking to lately. However, I remember listening to him regularly talking with Washington insiders like John McCain, James Carville and Andrea Mitchell. What developed was a disgusting symbiotic relationship between politicians and this good ol’ boy shock jock. It was all “good fun” of course. It allowed prominent politicians to let their hair down a bit. They could pretend that Don Imus was not a jerk and that underneath all that bravado was a civilized, principled and egalitarian man.

If he is this way in real life, it really does not matter. What does matter is how he behaves on the public airwaves in front of 300,000 plus listeners. To put it mildly, the character he is on the air would be one of the last people that I would invite to a party. I am hardly a paragon of virtue and I confess to being a regular sinner, sometime even an egregious sinner. Yet even I would not want to be associated with him. Therefore, it is even more surprising that so many politicians would engage their reckless side by chatting with him regularly on the air. By doing so, it says far more about them than it does about Don Imus.

Imus though wants to project a kinder side. When he was not talking about Lewinski’s stained blue dress, I remember him yammering about his Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer in Ribera, New Mexico. It is nice that he cares about kids with cancer, although one has to wonder why it costs his charity close to $3000 a night for one child to stay at the ranch. It was enough to raise the eyebrows of then New York State Attorney General (and now governor) Elliott Spitzer and investigate the charity in 2005.

I am confident that as long there are human beings on the planet we will still crave the Don Imuses and Howard Sterns of the world. They fill the void in many of our lives for outrageous and salacious. It is unwise for us to go around acting like Bluto Blutarsky, so they get to do it for us. They seem to be part of the price we pay to live in a free society. If the FCC though is going to insist on being nannies of the public airwaves, it might as well go after egregious examples on the right too, like Don Imus. While I certainly do not approve of Don Imus’ behavior, I actually would prefer less micromanagement by the FCC on the content of our public airwaves. The shock jocks in the broadcast world, by being increasingly outrageous, tend to dig their own graves in time. Don Imus got a long overdue case of karmic kick in the ass last week. Now most of the public, which was only dimly aware of him before or did not even know who he was, has a convenient and rather accurate set of labels they can associate with him: pompous racist hypocritical prick.

As for the prominent politicians who openly associate with people like Imus, if they are going to play in the mud, they should expect to be slimed too. They need to exercise sounder judgment. Granted, spending an hour or two on the air with Don Imus is probably a lot more fun than your day job of going to boring committee hearings and running for president. A certain amount of decorum and political correctness comes with being a politician. The many political friends of Don Imus, tenaciously cultivated over the years, should realize that fair or not, the public will judge their character by those with whom they associate. When it comes to associating with rapscallions like Imus, they should take the advice of Nancy Reagan and “Just say no.”

Brought down to earth

The Thinker by Rodin

Just what is going on at NASA? Until recently, most of us did not have much of a clue. Except on those tragic occasions such as when a space shuttle blows up, we mostly ignore the space program. We know what to expect. A few times a year, on a good year, NASA sends a space shuttle into orbit. It usually visits the International Space Station and while there, the astronauts typically do some heavy construction. Astronauts do all sorts of other research that we secretly suspect could be done for far less on Earth. We are also vaguely aware that NASA sends these neat unmanned satellites to distant places in our solar system. Only a few of us are aware that President Bush wants us to send men back to the moon, this time to live permanently, and to eventually colonize Mars. The NASA scuttlebutt is that in 2009, when presumably we get a Democratic president, most of these grandiose ideas will be killed, or scaled back.

All this is extremely interesting if you are a NASA insider. However, most of us do not care. The space program is, like, so 20th century! For us to pay attention to NASA it has to pander to concerns that are earthbound. So no doubt you did tune in when the bizarre and (we can accurately proclaim) other worldly story of now ex astronaut Lisa M. Nowak exploded in February. She was unceremoniously fired by NASA yesterday because she has been charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary with assault for what looks like a premeditated attack on fellow astronaut and Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman. Shipman had the audacity to get romantically involved with the same man with the right stuff that she wanted. He would be astronaut William A. Oefelein, a Navy commander and shuttle commander.

Despite being a woman astronaut on the hoof, the story doubtless would have received much less press had it not been for the bizarre means by which Nowak conducted her alleged assault. She drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando, wearing an adult diaper all the way, because she could not be bothered to stop for bathroom breaks. She allegedly assaulted Shipman in an airport parking lot after following her to her car in an airport shuttle bus. She cleverly disguised herself in a trench coat and red wig and then allegedly tried to spray a chemical into her car. Shipman, naturally, wondered why this crazy chick with the bad wig was going postal at her, sped away and reported her to the authorities. She was arrested shortly thereafter.

Now Nowak joins a singular group of being the only astronaut ever fired, as well as the first to be charged with a felony. Instead of the right stuff, she showed that sadly an astronaut could have the wrong stuff. For the moment, she has returned to work for the U.S. Navy. Since she was technically on loan to NASA, the Navy will have to figure out whether Nowak, a naval officer, will also have to face military charges after she goes to trial for her alleged felonious conduct.

Things have not been tidy lately in Nowak’s life. She recently separated from her husband of 19 years, allegedly because she wanted to pursue Oefelein. She is the mother of three. Her relationship with Oefelein, until he dumped her in January for Shipman (who is about ten years younger than Nowak) was described as somewhere between more than friends but less than lovers. Maybe they were just f*** buddies.

Oefelein and Nowak never flew in the space shuttle together. After a ten year wait, Nowak finally got her opportunity to travel into space last July in STS 121. Shipman, who traveled into space on a recent shuttle mission, spent some of her free time in orbit steaming up the shuttle’s windows. Apparently, she and Oefelein were busy sending each other erotic emails. “First urge will be to rip your clothes off, throw you on the ground and love the hell out of you,” Oefelein, a divorcee, reputedly emailed to Shipman. Somehow, Nowak got copies of the emails. They were found in her possession after her tawdry airport parking lot encounter.

Yes, things look a bit grim for Nowak at the moment. Nevertheless, I predict that all’s well that ends well. We live in America, after all, where capitalism is our state religion. Nowak will soon learn that there is money to be made in scandal. Like Monica Lewinski, her tawdry story is good for at least six figures when she sells the TV and movie rights. There is also money in the book she will be encouraged to write. In it doubtless we will learn about a side of NASA that its public affairs office would prefer to keep under wraps. Oefelein should consider the advantages of selling out too. With luck we will get dueling made for TV movies, much like the many we got after the Joey Buttafuoco / Amy Fisher mess of the early 1990s. (I suspect that it did much to keep CNN solvent.) Perhaps like Monica, Lisa will eventually retail her own line of clothes. I suspect they are more likely to appear at a Marshalls than at a Nieman Marcus.

So cheer up, Lisa. That ankle-monitoring bracelet may be inconvenient right now. The time you might spend in prison and probation may not be fun. Your soon to be ex-husband will take care of the kids. Prison time will give you plenty of time for contemplation. Do yourself a favor, bring a journal, and write it all down. Let it all out, gal! It would be best though to write it all down now, while it is all fresh and while you can command the highest fees for rights to your “exclusive story”. Get yourself an agent, for you will need one. Your story will have legs for many years, particularly if you are wise enough to dole out little details to the media regularly. Eventually, if you do your marketing right, you will find it pays to discover redemption.

Here is what I recommend. Once released from prison, spend a year working for some hopelessly honorable charity like Goodwill. Make sure your agent gets the word out to the press. You want some reporter coming by at least once a week taking pictures and interviewing you about how you have changed. Start a charity that helps women cope with marital pain and suffering. Your career may now be earthbound instead of pointed toward the heavens, but it can now be much more materially rewarding than it has been to date. Think of this incident as a golden opportunity, not necessarily to learn any karmic lessons, but to repackage yourself. You are now Brand Nowak. If you can, start doing the talk show circuit. Confess your deeds on Oprah, if possible.

By the way, congratulations on getting into space. You are one of a select group to get into space, but it is also a group that keeps expanding. It looks like within a dozen years many of us with spare piles of cash will be able to get into outer space too. So it is unlikely that when they write your obituary your one trip into space will even be mentioned. Now, thanks to your moment of wigging out in such a spectacular and unforgettable fashion, you have achieved something many of us lust for but never achieve: immortality.

I may spend the rest of my life blogging and putting out my thoughts to the universe. Yet with one adult diaper, one crazed 900-mile journey, and one tawdry moment in a parking lot, the name of Lisa Nowak will live forever. You can use the money coming your way to put your children into elite colleges and universities – try doing that on an astronaut’s salary! You will retire early and if you invest your money wisely, perhaps it will be on your own private island. If you market yourself right, you will find plenty of men like Oefelein. Heck, once he discovers your new income potential, he may be ringing you up. Won’t that get the tabloids going! However, this can your only happen if you act quickly and engage America’s bottomless prurient interests.

Get moving, girl.

The virtues of being ordinary

The Thinker by Rodin

There is more recent evidence for those who quietly lust to be a celebrity that it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Call me nuts, but if you ask me being rich, beautiful and famous is just not worth it. I will take turnip farming any day of the week.

No doubt, you are aware of two recent cases in point. Pop star Britney Spears checked herself out of rehab today, a day or so after shaving her head, which was a day or two after she checked herself out of rehab the first time, which was shortly after she was photographed at Club One in New York City, trying on the skimpy attire required of its erotic dancers.

Perhaps these incidents are not surprising given that her personal life is in shambles. She recently divorced the dancer Kevin Federline, some years after a 55-hour Las Vegas wedding with Jason Allen Alexander. Here she is at age 25, the dysfunctional parent of two young children, both of whom, no doubt, are being raised by nannies. Mommy has little time for temper tantrums, poopy diapers and 3 AM feedings. I hope that she sees very little of her children; they are probably better off hanging around with their completely ordinary nannies than with their wacky mother. Oh, and then there is her career. It is unclear to me where her income is coming from. She is no longer popular with the teen crowd, and she never had much talent to begin with. She appears to be living far beyond her income. We know she smokes, but going to rehab twice suggests that she is trying to shake a problem bigger than a nicotine addiction. Most likely, Britney is quaffing or snorting something very pricey. She seems to be trying to emulate Madonna’s bad girl act, except she has neither her talent nor her ability to stand on the precipice of a cliff without falling off.

And then there is the recently deceased Anna Nicole Smith, former March 1992 Playboy magazine playmate, proud 8th grade graduate, ex stripper and wife of the late oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall. She married Marshall in 1994 when she was 26 (a year older than Britney) and he was 89. You would have to have been living in a cave for the last dozen years not to know about her dispute with Marshall’s family over his estate when he died about a year into their marriage. For some mysterious reason her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her marriage to Marshall, in addition to making her the nation’s premier gold digger and bimbo, led her into unmemorable parts in various movies and TV shows. She had a son when she was only 18, who unsurprisingly grew up to become drug addicted. Clearly spaced out on something, he died at age 20 in his mother’s hospital room. What a way to introduce himself to his new baby sister, whose paternity, incidentally, is still being argued. Ms. Smith had a “commitment ceremony” but apparently not a legal marriage with her attorney Howard K. Stern. She died ingloriously on February 8th at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. She reportedly had a very high fever at the time of her death. Until yesterday, her body sat on ice. The most honest income she probably made was for being a spokesperson for TrimSpa, which was reputedly her means for losing the 69 pounds that she put on during her court challenges.

Certainly not every celebrity is a walking train wreck, but they do seem to end up doing a lot more stupid and foolish things than the rest of us. Money gives them the means. Talent and/or good looks also ensure they are constantly showered with attention.

As I alluded to in another entry, underneath the façade of course they are fallible people just like us. Unlike us though, they have the means to keep tripping over themselves. The evidence suggests that their talent and good looks are often a deadly combination. “All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare told us. That is certainly true for celebrities. Like it or not they are always on stage. They do not have the privilege of living with their shields down. Even if they try, the paparazzi are just around the corner. Instead of being an advantage, being a celebrity becomes a prison for which death is the only final escape. There is always a fan that wants to tell you how wonderful you are. There is always a queue of people wanting to sleep with you. You need a staff: a publicist, a hairdresser, a personal trainer, an agent, accountants, bodyguards, servants, chauffeurs, and personal shoppers. If you want to do something ordinary like run through the drive thru at a Burger King, you need to don a disguise, and hope your dopy disguise does not give you away.

Thankfully, I am ordinary. I do not have these problems. With the exception of the office or within a couple hundred feet of my house, I can go anywhere and I will likely be unrecognized. While my average looks ensure that glamorous women will not be making passes at me, they also ensure that I do not need to deal with the stress that such constant attention would cause.

Truly, I am blessed to be unnoticed and so are you. Being a celebrity is simply too much stress and too much of a hassle. Britney and Anna Nichole are recent and somewhat egregious examples of the hazards of being a celebrity. They suggest that Darwin was right and that being a celebrity itself reduces your odds of survival. My ordinary life comes bounded by reasonable constraints. These constraints are not evil; they provide a structure that allows me to reach my natural potential.

I do not wish to be a celebrity and I believe neither should you. Celebrate how fortunate you are that your life is ordinary. Celebrate that because you are ordinary your values are likely magnitudes better grounded than Britney Spears’. Celebrate that you are likely to make it to an old age in good health, instead of being in rehab at age 25. Celebrate that your parents, while flawed, likely filled you with more function than dysfunction. Because they cared, you had enough common sense to wait until you were ready before you tackled major life chores like marriage and children.

If you truly aspire to be the next Britney or Anna Nichole, American Idol is likely taking auditions in a city near you. Just be careful what you ask for because you may get it. The package may look all nice and pretty. However, if your dream is actually realized then beware: it may be momentarily thrilling, but it is more likely to be descent into hell.

Celebrities Trapped in Immaturity

The Thinker by Rodin

Oh big yawn! Tom Cruise is getting hitched again, this time to Katie Holmes. She’s 16 years younger than he is but that’s no problem for the 42-year-old Cruise. I will give him credit for making it through ten years and eight months with Nichole Kidman. In that sense he beat the statistics, certainly for both celebrities and for the American marriages that last on average seven years. But his second marriage to Penelope Cruz lasted three years. So I hope Katie Holmes is not naïve enough to think that she will succeed where Nichole and Penelope failed. Enjoy your time together with Tom, Katie. It’s likely to be fleeting.

But Tom Cruise is hardly alone. Jennifer Lopez lasted eight months with Cris Judd and thirteen months with Ojani Noa. Angelina Jolie made it two years each with Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thorton. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt survived five years, but I’m willing to bet they shared residences for less than half that time. Drew Barrymore and Tom Green: 5 months. Drew and Jeremy Thomas: 19 days. Since apparently so many celebrities can’t maintain a real marriage I hope they, or at least their lawyers, have brains enough to insist on stringent prenuptial agreements.

Why do they bother? Why do they cheapen marriage for the rest of us? There needs to be some sort of special marriage certificates issued to Hollywood celebrities that gives the appearance of marriage but none of the actual expectations. Because it is pretty obvious that most celebrities have the emotional maturity of Ferris Bueller. (Bueller was played by Matthew Broderick who, incidentally, may be the exception: he is eight years into a first marriage with Sarah Jessica Parker.)

Okay, granted Americans in general talk a good talk on marriage, but aren’t great at following through on the ideal. The statistics are pretty sobering. But as bad as our overall marriage statistics are, Hollywood celebrities are far worse. Three quarters of celebrity marriages end in divorce. And I don’t know if there are statistics out there for the average duration of celebrity marriages but I suspect it is a lot less than seven years. Seven months is likely closer to the reality.

I think I understand what is going on. Basically most celebrities while very attractive and talented tend to have the emotional maturity of teenagers. When you are a perfect 10, when you ooze with talent, when you have more than enough money to live an opulent lifestyle, when great looking women/men are constantly clamoring for your body, it is easy to succumb to temptation. Just ditch the current spouse and pick another perfect 10 from the gene pool. Repeat as necessary but don’t absorb any karmic lessons. In short you don’t have to ever grow up. You get to act like Michael Jackson just limit your lovers to adults!

Admittedly there will come a time when their fame diminishes and their looks fade. And then it will be rough. At that point it is likely that any dwindling fortune and residuals is all that will win them a spouse. Unless they are very lucky they shouldn’t expect that that they will ever encounter anything resembling genuine love.

Married old farts like myself (twenty years this October, thank you very much) know that marriage is not so much about joy as it is about constantly working through relationship issues. While it has its virtues, hard work comes with the territory. That I have survived twenty years in my marriage does not mean that I am a marriage expert. Like a fingerprint, each marriage is unique. But like all marriages mine has had its ups and downs. It has rarely felt like being on a cruise ship. Rather it’s been more like being on a sailboat in the midst of a tempest with periods of relative calm. But basically I’ve grown accustomed to the rough seas. We’ve spent a lot of time bailing water keeping the marriage afloat. I am sure there were many times when we were tempted to chuck it all. For both of us I don’t think the reality quite met our reasonably well-grounded expectations. But at least they were grounded in some reality. We both knew we were flawed people with our own issues. And we had an inkling that when bad things happened we had an obligation to work through our issues as best we could. Sometimes we did a bad job of working through them and sometimes we did a good job. But we hung in there.

In short marriage requires a lot of accommodation, talking and perseverance, something that seems in short supply in Hollywood. It also requires a lot of humility, something virtually unknown in Hollywood. And it requires two people to actively work at the relationship, rather than be passive participants.

The truth is that being attractive and talented is more of a curse than a blessing. I have to infer that it gives a person a very skewed picture of the real world. Eventually though those glamorous stars are revealed to their glamour spouses as just another guy or gal with issues and dealing with the issues is, like, no fun. And that’s when the temptation often becomes irresistible. Their marriages, which were tentative artifices anyhow, quickly crumble. Likely there are some hurt feelings but my bet is that they are easy enough to plaster over. There is an endless supply of others who want to get embroiled in their glamorous world.

So, truly, I am glad to be ordinary. In some ways despite all their talent, looks, and money I have some sympathy for our celebrities. The kind of marriage the rest of us know seems to be unknown to many of them. But it has its virtues and comforts along with its constant challenges. And for better or worse many of us who survive in long term marriages grow a lot spiritually from hanging in there. We may be battle scarred, but at least we have encountered the reality of two people bound in a long-term intimate relationship. Now let’s see a movie on that.