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Art Imitates Life (Plus Some Religion)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 15:12 EST Leave a comment

Being cheap—and, at the moment, broke—I don’t have television service. That’s no cable, no satellite. The only things I really miss watching are the local sports teams, but I can get those on the radio. Still, it’s nice to watch a movie or program occasionally, and for that reason I compromised and sprung for an $8/month subscription to Hulu.

The nice thing about Hulu is that it isn’t just a site where you can stream, at your convenience, programs other people watch on television. It has its own original programming as well, some of which is quite good. I’m currently watching a Hulu original series called Casual, about a woman in the process of getting a divorce who temporarily moves, with her teenaged daughter, into her brother’s house. The story follows the three of them as they navigate the various relationships (I use the term loosely) arising from each character’s pursuit of casual sex. What’s interesting is that for three people who are getting the no-strings-attached sex they actively seek, they are remarkably miserable

All of which has me thinking about Catholic teaching on sexuality, something about which I’m preparing to lead discussion as part of an adult faith formation program I coordinate at my church. Even people with absolutely no connection to the Catholic church know that its teachings prohibit pre-marital, extra-marital, or same-sex sex. (Yeah, I spent five minutes trying to figure out how to say that last one in a less redundant way but came up empty. Sorry.)

The teaching goes basically like this: the purpose of sexuality is that it be shared between two people who are joined in marriage, for the purposes of uniting them to one another and producing children. As someone who has had sex and given birth without being married, I often questioned why the marriage part was a requirement.

More recently, I have come to some understanding of that teaching, from two perspectives: practical and emotional. My pregnancy was the result of a relationship that wasn’t in any way serious or committed. I ended up raising my child alone, a difficult task materially speaking. On the other hand, when I had sex for love (with someone different), it was indeed unifying. But that relationship ended, and in three decades I still haven’t gotten over it. I wonder if it would have been easier to move on if we had never shared those sexual experiences that seemed to cement the emotional connection between us. For the record, I also had a wild phase when I sought sex for fun, but it wasn’t remotely fulfilling and didn’t make me feel very good about myself. I don’t do that any more.

Maybe that’s the wisdom of Catholic teaching. As much as we may want to believe otherwise, sex is profoundly different from other human interactions. For people who don’t take it seriously, like the characters in Casual, it can be unsatisfying at best and hurtful at worst.

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Things I Thought I Knew

Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 15:19 EST Leave a comment

Nobody’s perfect. I know I’m not. Sure, my co-workers consider me their personal IT help desk, my friends know they will always lose to me in Trivial Pursuit, and my son calls me a wellspring of useless information, although he insists that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, which is why he’s still in the will.

Jack Nicholson in "Tommy"All that notwithstanding, there is plenty I don’t know. Some of it I didn’t know I didn’t know until something happened to enlighten me. Such was the case the other night while I was watching the 1975 movie Tommy for probably the third or fourth time in my life. At the scene when Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed take Roger Daltrey to a doctor who, they are told, “can cure the boy,” I realized for the first time that the doctor is Jack Nicholson. How did I never notice that before?

Then there are things we think we know until we are told otherwise, often in embarrassing fashion. Years ago I heard a motivational speaker, a woman named Rita Davenport, describe the moment when she realized she had always mispronounced the word “omnipotent.” Rather than saying “ahm-NIH-puh-tent,” she was saying “ahm-nee-PO-tent.” I can see why that would be a problem for a professional speaker, but her point was that we all make mistakes and we all have things to learn.

But sometimes what we learn is wrong, or at least incomplete. I used to think that every human being who ever lived was either blue-eyed or brown-eyed. Sure, I realized that there were many more actual iris colors than just blue and brown. But I managed to get through most of my life thinking that what we called them was either blue or brown.

I’m not a geneticist and I don’t play one on the internet, but I got that notion somewhere. I blame my teachers. Does this look familiar?

Eye color genetics

That’s the kind of chart we were shown in science class to demonstrated how a dominant genetic trait subjugates a recessive trait. Specifically, the lesson purported to explain how two brown-eyed parents could have either a blue-eyed child or a brown-eyed child based on whether the parents pass on dominant (B for brown) or recessive (b for blue) alleles. But two blue-eyed parents (each with two bs) can’t have a brown-eyed child, we were taught, because neither has a dominant B to pass on. I never was quite sure how any combination of Bs and/or bs could result in eyes that were really neither brown nor blue, but Eye colorsthat didn’t prevent me from going on my merry way believing that amber eyes were a variant of brown and all those gray-eyed and green-eyed and hazel-eyed people were what geneticists would call blue-eyed. And that if two blue-eyed parents ended up with a brown-eyed baby, said baby was either adopted or bore a striking resemblance to the mailman.

A green-eyed co-worker recently tried to set me straight. Not willing to take her word for it, I looked it up and sure enough, what I had learned was a gross over-simplification of reality. A green-eyed person isn’t blue-eyed by any definition. And it turns out that hazel eyes are actually considered a subset of brown. I therefore extend my humblest apologies to those over the years whom I complimented for their “blue eyes” that weren’t the least bit blue.

"Hold me closer, Tony Danza"As disconcerting as this revelation was, it wasn’t as embarrassing as a mistake that many people make: singing along to a song and, in the presence of others, belting out the wrong lyrics. This phenomenon inspired a web site named for a misheard lyric from the Jimi Hendrix song “Kiss the Sky” (“‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy”). Some of the user-reported errors are understandable and others leave me scratching my head wondering how anyone could possibly hear what they claim to have heard. Then there are the errors that are practically universal. Let me just say that I’m glad I’m not the only person alive who sang along to that Doby Gray song “Drift Away” for decades before it was gently explained to me that it has nothing to do with the Beach Boys.

This Is Sad, Even for a White Girl

Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 17:40 EST Leave a comment

Don Cornelius, the creator and long-time host of the classic R&B music and dance TV program Soul Train, has killed himself.

I loved Soul Train as a kid. The show turned me on to artists that weren’t necessarily prolific on Top 40 radio, performers who have withstood the sense of time like Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Chaka Khan (I actually bought a Rufus album solely to listen to “Tell Me Something Good.”) It was American Bandstand, only about ten times cooler. Seriously, look at these pictures and tell me that wasn’t the early to mid 1970s at its best. I thought the women were all gorgeous and I wanted to be just like them. Yep, I’m talking serious melanin envy.

All that aside, suicide is always tragic and horrible. One never knows what’s going on in another person’s life or head. What a sad end to an amazing life and career.

Categories: entertainment, music

About That Dwindling SOPA/PIPA Support, and an OPEN Alternative

Thursday, January 19, 2012, 18:10 EST Leave a comment

Yesteray’s internet protest was so effective that not only did several previous supporters of the “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP Act” switch sides, but today an alternate bill was introduced in Congress. More on the newly proposed “Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” later in this post. First, let’s take a look at the SOPA and PIPA situation, which is still somewhat fluid:

  • House sponsors of SOPA have included as many as 16 Democrats and 16 Republicans. Four of those Republicans and one Democrat have now dropped their support.
  • House opposition to SOPA now includes 46 Republicans and 43 Democrats.
  • Senate support of PIPA has included as many as 25 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and one Independent (who caucuses with the Democrats). Eight of those Republicans and two of the Democrats have now dropped their support.
  • Senate opposition to PIPA now includes six former Republican co-sponsors and one former Democratic co-sponsor.

These numbers are from a Wikipedia page which, as far as I can tell, accurately reflects the current positions of members and includes very recent (yesteray and today) defections from the supporters’ side.

I must say that I am heartened by the number of Republicans who have seen the light and dropped their support. Democratic supporters seem to be more stubborn, but that isn’t surprising given the heavy support the self-proclaimed “party of the people” gets from wealthy donors in the entertainment industry. Still, it couldn’t hurt to pressure more Democrats to turn.

It’s important to note that the SOPA, a vote on which has been indefinitely delayed in the House, could still come back. We can expect supporters to sit back and wait for Americans’ notoriously short memories to fade, then bring the legislation back, either unchanged or in a modified form. As for PIPA, a majority of Senators is not needed to kill the bill; 41 opponents can prevent a vote from taking place, thus winning by default.

In other words, we need to keep the heat on. The letters, calls, and emails to members shouldn’t stop now that the blackout is over. Indeed, the blackout was effective only because it prompted large numbers of voters to contact their Representative and Senators to express their opposition to these bills. We should continue to express our support and gratitude to those members who have come out in opposition to the legislation, besiege the proponents in an effort to turn them, and heavily lobby those whose position is unknown.

What about those of you who have never contacted your federal legislators? Your input can be especially effective. Make sure to mention at the beginning of your letter, email, or phone call that you have never contacted politician before but feel strongly about this issue. Nothing gets an elected official’s attention like previously unengaged constituents stirred to action for the first time.

If you don’t know whom to contact, it’s easy to find out. To get the name and contact info of your Representative in the House, go to the House web site and enter your zip code. To find your two Senators, go to the Senate web site and choose your state from the drop-down box.

To learn more about what SOPA would do and how, check out this infographic. This article provides additional information.

Would the “Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act” (OPEN) introduced today be any better? I’m not sure, but it’s worth looking into. According to the linked article:

The main difference between OPEN and the other two bills that have caused such a furor of criticism is that OPEN fundamentally differs on which government agency should be responsible for fighting online piracy and how it should go about it.

SOPA and PIPA are written to give the U.S. Attorney General the power to seek court orders to take-down foreign websites when those websites are accused of piracy by copyright holders, like Hollywood and the recording industry.

Once a foreign website is accused of piracy under SOPA and PIPA, all U.S. websites and companies are forced to sever ties with it — removing links and stopping payment processing and advertising with them. That could mean the removal of links from Google, Facebook and Twitter, including those posted by users.

The OPEN Act differs in that it would make the International Trade Commission (ITC) the agency responsible for fighting online piracy. The ITC already handles all cases involving foreign imports that are accused of copyright infringement, so it would seem a more natural fit for dealing with foreign websites, according to [Rep. Daniel] Issa [(R-CA)] and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the bill’s other main co-sponsor.

Under OPEN, once the ITC receives a complaint that a foreign website contained pirated material, it would be obligated to notify the website of the complaint — a key provision missing from SOPA, where no notification is required.

Further, if the ITC decides a complaint was legitimate, the agency could only force U.S. advertisers and payment companies to cut-off business with the foreign website, NOT search engines or Internet Service Providers, as had previously been required by both SOPA and PIPA. The OPEN Act also narrows the definition of what can websites can be targeted, saying that only those foreign sites that have “a limited purpose” aside from piracy or are clear piracy centers can be considered.

That sounds like a big improvement on the surface, but as usual, read a draft of the bill to see if it says what Issa and Wyden say it says. I’ll have more comments once I have a chance to do so.

Web Blackout Opens Eyes

Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 23:00 EST Leave a comment

Internet blackoutIt would appear that today’s mass internet strike, in which this blog proudly participated with a 12-hour blackout, has been at least somewhat effective (hat tip: Glenn Reynolds):

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who was a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act — became the latest lawmaker Wednesday to pull his support. In the House, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), originally a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, pulled his name from the list of sponsors on Tuesday. A spokesman for Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), meanwhile, told the Omaha World-Herald on Wednesday that the congressman is also unable to support SOPA as written.

[ . . . ]

The widespread Internet protest is even bringing new Washington voices into the fray. Mostly silent in the debate, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) tweeted Wednesday he doesn’t back the bills.

Just yesterday, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, to whom Reynolds derisively refers as “Lamar Smith (R-Hollywood), called the strike—or at least Wikipedia’s participation therein—a “publicity stunt” that “does a disservice to its users by promoting fear instead of facts.” But given Congress’s habit of passing overreaching legislation that brings avalanches of unintended consequences, fear is hardly an unreasonable reaction. The thing about laws, particularly (and ironically) laws crafted to address very narrowly defined threats or perceived threats to special interests, is that what their practical effects end up far exceeding the stated intentions of the authors and supporters.

The trouble with SOPA (the almost-dead House bill) and its evil twin PIPA (the pending Senate bill) is that their sometimes vague language permits much greater power to control content than their proponents claim. It would make more sense to enforce the array of copyright laws already on the books than to pass news laws that treat electronic media differently from traditional media. Newspapers wouldn’t tolerate a law allowing the mere allegation of copyright infringement by one of its reporters in a single story to shut down their presses indefinitely. Musicians and recording houses wouldn’t tolerate a law allowing the mere allegation of copyright infringement in one song to stop sales of all their recordings. Yet that’s essentially what SOPA and PIPA say can happen to web sites that are accused of copyright infringement.

But SOPA and PIPA are actually worse, because they require outside parties, such as web hosting services, to remove allegedly offending content or shut down allegedly offending sites operated independently by customers or face penalty themselves. It isn’t hard to imagine that service providers, unable to spend the time and resources required to perform their own investigations and unwilling to risk government sanction, would knuckle under to intimidation rather than stand their ground. The case of Righthaven, a copyright troll founded with the intention of making big money by bullying small independent electronic media users into settling lawsuits the courts have since ruled it had no standing to bring, provides a glimpse of what might happen if similar would-be bullies were explicitly handed the same power by the U.S. Congress.

Those who wish to read the full text of the bills in .pdf format can do so at the U.S. Government Printing Office web site: SOPA and PIPA.

More Celebrity Stage Names

Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 18:34 EST Leave a comment

In re-reading my earlier post about rappers’ stage names, it occurred to me that readers might be interested in the Academy Award winners I mentioned when I made the comparison between the 1940s and the 2000s in terms of the use of stage names in the film industry. Here are the Best Actor and Best Actress winners between 1940 and 1950, inclusive, with stage names bolded and real names in parentheses where applicable. I don’t consider the use of a given middle name instead of a first name to be a name change, but I note such for informational purposes.

  • James Stewart
  • Gary Cooper (Frank James Cooper)
  • James Cagney
  • Paul Lukas (Pál Lukácz)
  • Bing Crosby
  • Ray Milland (Alfred Reginald Jones)
  • Fredric March (Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel)
  • Ronald Colman
  • Laurence Olivier
  • Broderick Crawford
  • José Ferrer
  • Ginger Rogers (Virginia Katherine McMath)
  • Joan Fontaine (Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland)
  • Greer Garson
  • Jennifer Jones (Phylis Lee Isley)
  • Ingrid Bergman
  • Joan Crawford (Lucille Fay LeSueur)
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Loretta Young (Gretchen Michaela Young)
  • Jane Wyman
  • Judy Holliday (Judith Tuvim)

A few notes: “Bing” was the childhood nickname of Harry Lillis Crosby and, as such, isn’t really a name change. Jane Wyman’s family name was Mayfield, but at the beginning of her career she was married to Ernest Eugene Wyman and used her married name. Paul Lukas appears to have anglicized his Hungarian name, which some might not consider a change of name; as the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of immigrants, some of whom unwillingly had their surnames changed by immigration officials, I am biased in favor of one’s original name, however ethnic it might be. Greer Garson and Jane Wyman used their middle names rather than their first names.

Now, for comparison purposes, are the Best Actor and Best Actress winners from 2000 to 2010, inclusive:

  • Russell Crowe
  • Denzel Washington
  • Adrien Brody
  • Sean Penn
  • Jamie Foxx (Eric Marlon Bishop)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Forest Whitaker
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Colin Firth
  • Julia Roberts
  • Halle Berry
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Charlize Theron
  • Hilary Swank
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Helen Mirren (Helen Mironoff)
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Kate Winslet
  • Sandra Bullock
  • Natalie Portman (Natalie Hershlag)

Notes: Halle Berry was born Maria Halle Berry, but her first and middle names were legally reversed when she was still a child. Reese Witherspoon uses a middle name.

Just for fun, here are some other real names of celebrities past and present:

  • “Dear Abby” Abigail Van Buren (Pauline Phillips)
  • Al Jolson (Asa Yoelson)
  • Alan Alda (Alphonso D’Abruzzo)
  • Alicia Keys (Alicia Augello Cook)
  • Billie Holliday (Eleanora Fagan)
  • Bruce Lee (Lee Yuen Kam)
  • Charlie Sheen (Carlos Irwin Estevez)
  • Clay Aiken (Clayton Holmes Grissom)
  • Demi Moore (Demetria Guynes)
  • Elle MacPherson (Elenor Gow)
  • Fergie (Stacey Ann Ferguson)
  • George Burns (Nathan Birnbaum)
  • Jason Alexander (Jay Scott Greenspan)
  • Jon Bon Jovi (John Francis Bongiovi)
  • Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta)
  • Marilyn Manson (Brian Warner)
  • Mylie Cyrus (Destiny Hope Cyrus)
  • Olivia Wilde (Olivia Jane Cockburn)
  • Ray Charles (Ray Charles Robinson)
  • Red Buttons (Aaron Chwatt)
  • Robert Blake (Michael James Vijencio Gubitosi)
  • Rodney Dangerfield (Jacob Cohen)
  • Shania Twain (Eileen Regina Edwards)
  • Stan Laurel (Arthur Jefferson)
  • Tony Randall (Leonard Rosenberg)
  • Whoopie Goldberg (Caryn Johnson)

Stage Names Gone Horribly Wrong

Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 17:20 EST Leave a comment

You're going to call me WHAT!?Show business names are as old as, well, show business. In an industry where image is everything, it isn’t surprising that people saddled by their parents with average names or worse would want something that sounded a bit smoother, more glamorous. In Hollywood’s heyday, it was usually the studios who held actor’ contracts who made the name change decisions, and in some cases it seemed that the movie moguls knew best. I doubt that people would have descended in droves upon movie theaters to see a leading lady named Frances Gumm, but everyone loved Judy Garland. John Wayne evoked simple American masculinity in a way that Marion Morrison couldn’t possibly muster. It might have been an uphill battle for Archibald Leach to project an air of suave sophistication, but Cary Grant had no such problem. Even my all-time favorite actress, born Natalia Nikolaevna Zacharenko, probably wouldn’t have gotten far without simplifying herself as Natalie Wood.

Stars today tend to be more honest such things, most using their given names or (in the case of Tom Cruise, né Thomas Cruise Mapother) parts thereof. Among the 21 Academy Award winning best actors and actresses in the years 2000-2010, for example, only three used stage names; among the 21 winners from 1940-1950, ten did.

But there is one genre of performers that has taken the idea of the stage name to its absurd extreme: rappers. For reasons I don’t understand, there seems to be an unwritten rule that rappers must come up with some name, any name, however meaningless, and if it contains a deliberate misspelling, all the better. I looked at the 30 top rappers of all time as rated by this site, looked them up on Wikipedia, and found that only one—Kanye West—uses his real name. Here are the rest (removing the two duos from the list, as musical groups commonly choose a group name).

  • 2Pac (Tupac Amaru Shakur)
  • Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Latore Wallace)
  • Nas (Nasir Jones)
  • Rakim (William Michael Griffin)
  • Jay-Z (Shawn Corey Carter)
  • Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson)
  • KRS-One (Lawrence Krishna Parker)
  • Eminem (Marshall Bruce Mathers)
  • LL Cool J (James Todd Smith)
  • Scarface (Brad Jordan)
  • Snoop Dogg (Calvin Cordozar Broadus)
  • Eazy-E (Eric Lynn Wright)
  • Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour)
  • Redman (Reginald Noble)
  • Raekwon (Corey Woods)
  • The Game (Jayceon Terrell Taylor)
  • Kurupt (Ricardo Emmanuel Brown)
  • Slick Rick (Ricky Walters)
  • Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn)
  • Busta Rhymes (Trevor Smith)
  • Method Man (Clifford Smith)
  • Big Daddy Lane (Antonio Hardy)
  • Lil Wayne (Dwayne Michael Carter)
  • Dr. Dre (André Romelle Young)
  • 50 Cent (Curtis James Jackson)
  • T.I. (Clifford Joseph Harris)
  • WC (William Calhoun)

I should point out that Rakim apparently joined the Nation of Islam and adopted the name Rakim Allah, so if he legally changed his name, he would be more like Madonna or Cher in going with the single-word moniker. A few others are loosely based on the performers’ real names: 2Pac sounds just like the rapper’s given first name, Nas could be short for Nasir, Slick Rick’s real first name is Ricky, and WC (pronounced “dub-cee,” I’m told) goes by his initials. But it’s a stretch to say that any of them uses his actual true name.

Not being a rap lover myself—OK, it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m a rap hater—I haven’t heard of most of those people, even though 50 Cent (pronounced “fiddy cent,” I’m told) was my aunt’s neighbor in a tony Connecticut town until she sold her house last month to retire to Florida full-time. (Mr. Cent—is it OK to call him Mr. Cent?—bought the house from Mike Tyson, which makes me wonder why Auntie didn’t sell sooner. But that’s another story.) I’ve also heard of two older rappers who used weird stage names: Ice-T (Tracy Marrow) and MC Hammer (Stanley Kirk Burrell). I can’t begin to know where the female rappers are and shudder to think of what they might call themselves.

What is it that makes someone want to take a stage name that is something besides, you know, a name? Sting, Bono, and The Edge have done it, but in rock such names are conspicuous. In rap, they’re ubiquitous. And some of them are so blatantly bad. What image is “Snoop Dogg” supposed to convey, a veterinary condition? And Lil Wayne is a great name for a doll marketed to toddler boys. I suppose early rappers thought it was edgy to come up with a strange name that didn’t actually mean anything, but now every rapper who does it is just another follower. Want to do something original? Have some balls and call yourself Carlton Ridenhour. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a tough guy. Ask Rosey Greer.

Natalie Wood: Reopening a 30-Year-Old Mystery

Friday, November 18, 2011, 13:26 EST 1 comment

I first heard the news on this morning’s Paul and Al Show on WHJY-FM radio during my morning commute. Then I saw a link from The Drudge Report to a Los Angeles Times article saying that the criminal investigation into Natalie Wood’s 1981 death has been reopened by police.

Wood, 43, was boating off the island on Thanksgiving weekend 1981 with her husband, Robert Wagner, fellow actor Christopher Walken and others when she somehow went overboard and died. Officials at the time ruled her death an accident, but there has been much speculation since over whether there was more to the story.

Sheriff Lee Baca said detectives want to talk to the captain of the boat after learning of comments he recently made about what happened on board. Baca did not provide further details, adding only that the captain “made comments worthy of exploring.”

A law enforcement source added that the department recently received a letter from an unidentified “third party” who said the captain had “new recollections” about the case. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

Color me skeptical, but obviously the police have enough doubts that they’re giving it another look.

Even though Wood did most of her work—including some of her best—before I was born, she was my favorite actress when I was growing up. Coming from someone who is not easily starstruck, that’s saying something. She was that rarest of Hollywood creatures, a child star (Miracle on 34th Street et al.) who also enjoyed success in her teens (Rebel without a Cause et al.) and into adulthood. I first saw her in a television airing of West Side Story, which I enjoyed even though Wood didn’t do her own singing (not an uncommon occurrence in musical films at that time). But my favorite among her movies is Inside Daisy Clover, released the year after I was born. I still laugh remembering the fabulous final scene in which Wood’s Daisy, having been repeatedly interrupted in her attempts to commit suicide by putting her head into a gas oven, finally cranks up the gas on all the burners, leaves the house, and walks down the beach as the house explodes behind her. I realize it doesn’t sound funny, but you have to see it to appreciate it.

I vividly recall where and when I heard about Wood’s death. I was a junior in high school, working a part-time weekend job in the medical records department of a local hospital. It was a Saturday morning and I was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of a shelf, filing laboratory reports, when the radio announced Wood’s drowning death. I was very sad; she was just a couple of years older than my mother (and, it feels odd to point out, four years younger than I am now). Not that I found her death to be any more tragic than any other, but people in their 40s aren’t supposed to die, and there is something about seeing people on the big screen (or, in my case, on the small screen in films made for the big screen) that makes them seem immortal.

But the bigger story in Wood’s death, independent of the celebrity angle, is that her accidental death might not have been an accident after all. If that’s the case, then there is a killer out there who has gone unpunished, which is a grave injustice regardless of who the victim is.

“She hated being called Liz.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 12:11 EST Leave a comment

The title is from the end of this article about today’s death of Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor. She went through her life being called “Liz” and hated it. Who knew? (Answer: Apparently, anyone who saw the 1999 interview in which she said it to Barbara Walters knew. I never watch Barbara Walters.)

Not being a big movie buff, I didn’t know a lot about Taylor except what I would pick up by osmosis. I do know that she was married many times. I don’t mean to be judgmental, because anyone can make a mistake in her youth and marry the wrong person for the wrong reasons, but wouldn’t you think that after the third or fourth divorce, she would take the hint that perhaps she just wasn’t cut out for marriage?

No matter. Her life was what it was, and apparently it included multiple medical problems, even in her younger years. It was too bad that she felt the need to project an image of youth even as she aged. I realize that the entertainment industry frowns upon women who look their ages, but someone as legendary as Elizabeth Taylor could have blazed a trail for older women in the performing arts. Besides, in this day and age, 79 (for some reason I thought she was older) isn’t what it used to be. Many people, women and men alike, remain very active at that age and beyond.

Anyway, I hope that her family takes her cue and inscribes her tombstone as she herself said she would want: “Here lies Elizabeth. She hated being called Liz. But she lived.”

Categories: entertainment

Revealed: Stars without Make-Up Look…Just Like the Rest of Us

Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 21:23 EST Leave a comment

Every now and then, a magazine or web site publishes pictures of beautiful celebrities with and without the make-up (and hair styling, and wardrobe) they don in professional settings. The Fox News site currently has such a collection. The tag line is, “Some celebs look great without the paint! Some, well, er, um, yeah…”

What is most striking about the photo array is how stunningly average most of these people look when they’re just knocking around. Some are very pretty (almost all are women) even when they aren’t done up. A few are, in my opinion, downright ugly au naturel (or at the very least, the pictures captured unflattering expressions), and there are even two or three I don’t think all that attractive with make-up, either. (For example, what’s up with Sofia Vergara’s left boob?) The run the gamut on the physical beauty scale. In other words, they are like most people. Actually, I know several people who are better looking than many of those who are hyped as beautiful by celebrity magazines.

The lesson is that I could probably be a glamorous celebrity if I had access to a professional make-up artist, a top hair stylist, fabulous clothes, and the couple hours it takes to put it all on. Nice to know, for future reference.

Categories: entertainment