Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anna earned that money...

Anna Nicole Smith appeared before the Supreme Court this morning but the hearing was postponed when four of the justices experienced heart palpatations while the vivacious celebrity stood up to be sworn in.

The matter at hand is the estate of J. Howard Marshall, the 89 year-old billionaire Anna Nicole married back in 1994. Marshall died after one year of marriage that included lavishing the buxom star with expensive gifts. When the old coot finally died, Anna contended that she was entitled to half of his 1.6 billion dollar estate. Marshall's surviving family disputed that assertion and a long battle ensued. Marshall's son, Pierce managed to convince state courts that he was the only heir to the estate, but Smith's pursuit of the matter in federal court revealed that Pierce destroyed evidence and altered paperwork that might have given credence to Smith's case. Smith was awarded nearly 500 million by the federal court, but an appeal by the Marshall family has moved the case forward. The Supreme Court will decide whether or not the federal courts have jurisdiction in this matter.

I say Anna Nicole deserves half of the estate. Unless she signed a prenup that specifically excluded her from the estate, which is a fact not in evidence, by virtue of marriage she deserves a significant portion of Marshall's money. Marshall knew that when he married her.

Is Anna a gold-digging opportunist? Hell yeah. She married that old codger because he had big money and he knew that was exactly what she saw in him. He was a shriveled up old man who was on death's door and he got to live out a dream by marrying a woman who was the hottest sexpot on the planet at that time. That last year might have been the best year of his life.

Was he of sound mind? Sure he was. Marshall's move was calculated. For his entire adult life he sacrificed everything to make money. He worked long hours, greased political wheels and supported his family. When he took that last look back over his life he realized that he couldn't take anything with him and all of that wealth was going to end up in the money grubbing clutches of his son who didn't do anything except hit daddy up for money. Why not go out with a bang?

The only sad part of this story is that society expects Anna Nicole to pretend that she loved the old bastard. That was never part of the arrangement. Marshall wanted his own private stripper on hand for his few remaining years and Anna Nicole was happy to oblige. The poor girl worked her way up through seedy Texas strip clubs. How hard would it be to give some rich old coot a lap dance once a week?

What I'm saying is that the exploitation was mutual. Texas courts lashed out at Anna Nicole because they chose to see her as a ruthless woman using sex to con a confused old man out of his money. It's easy to project the image of your senile grandfather on to Marshall, but what if Marshall wasn't senile? What if he was just horny? What if your grandfather just wanted a little action before he died?

Is sex with Anna Nicole worth 500 million? Probably not, but Marshall got more than sex, he also landed himself a trophy that he could lord over the rest of the world. Look at this, everybody! It's all mine. Anna Nicole Smith was more than just a sexy stripper, she was an A-list celebrity. She could have had any guy she wanted and she wanted J. Howard Marshall. He knew his money had a lot to do with it, but by the time he turned 89 was there really a distinction? More than anything Anna Nicole Smith was Marshall's way of letting the world know that he won the game. He traded in his wealth for that vicarious vitality Anna Nicole provided. He died a happy man. Good for him.

And good for her. You don't have to respect her. You don't have to like her. Anna Nicole made a name for herself with a great body and not much else. She's not going to cure cancer and she isn't going to write a classic novel. Anna Nicole has tried her hand at acting and come away looking a bit foolish. But that doesn't mean she's stupid. There are plenty of sexy women out there who never rise above shaking their breasts at a the local strip club and the handful of people who stumble into their 15 minutes of fame typically fail to capitalize. Anna Nicole didn't miss any opportunities. She used her body to become famous and used her fame to attract the attention of a man who could set her up for life. How stupid is that?

Pierce Howard is upset because Anna Nicole Smith came between him and his daddy's money. Pierce was counting on that windfall. He had his sights set on that estate from the time he could count. Imagine his frustration when his dad took a shine to Anna Nicole Smith. Imagine his outrage when she reciprocated. Pierce needs to back off. If his father wasn't of sound mind he could have stopped the wedding. He could have acquired durable power of attorney over his father's estate and kept Anna Nicole out of the picture. But he couldn't do that. His dad was just fine. Old, but otherwise fine. J. Howard Marshall simply decided that he had done right by his family and was going to use the power of his estate to do right by himself. One last piece of candy before bed. Nothing wrong with that.

These things happen all the time. Old men marry young women who subsequently lay claim to the estate. The reason people have a problem with Anna Nicole is because she made a name for herself selling sex. It's obvious that she's not a brilliant conversationalist and that makes the reason Marshall married her even more obvious. The glaring truth in this case is what upsets people. Society prefers a these matters to be subtle. There's nothing subtle about Anna Nicole. She's big, busty and loud. We know that she didn't win J. Howard Marshall's heart, she stirred his loins and for that he was willing to trade his wealth.

What people don't realize is that Anna Nicole traded more than temporary use of her body for all of that money. She became a bit of a pariah when she married Marshall and her career fell flat. Sure, that collapse was inevitable, but the marriage expedited things. People started to hate her after she married that old man.

Now she's a punch line. We mock her because she's always drunk or high or both. We laugh because we assume she's playing along, but the reality is that this experience has hurt her. She wasn't well equipped to handle the pressure of being famous when everybody loved her, now everybody loves to hate her. Sadly, that probably wasn't something she bargained for when she married Marshall.

Anna Nicole married Marshall because she realized that her time in the spotlight was coming to an end. She didn't have enough substance to maintain a meaningful career and the infatuation with her body would eventually subside and she would be replaced with the next hard body to stun the Playboy Audience. When Marshall made himself available, she did the math and figured it was the best investment she could make. Chances are pretty good that Marshall himself spelled that reality out for her. Neither of them realized how quickly the public would turn on her.

Call her what you will, but give the girl her money. She earned it. J. Howard Marshall wanted her to have it. It was a business proposition. He bought her life with his massive fortune. Who are we to judge?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Last night I spent the evening....

I feel dirty. Last night I found myself glued to the television oogling young girls in revealing outfits doing their level best to gain approval from unscrupulous judges and an adoring audience. These girls pushed themselves to the limits of their abilities while I sat there like some dirty old man feeling them up with my eyes.

Sadly, the event I watched was American Idol. Fox was brash in opting to run American Idol against the Olympics, especially with figure skating on the playlist but they took the gamble and it worked. Traditionally the other networks will impose a hiatus on their new shows and run movies or reruns opposite the games. Fox broke form and challenged the Olympics by running its powerhouse Idol against NBC's extensive coverage in a high stakes game of ratings chicken.

The bread and butter for the Olympics is women's figure skating. It's been a ratings machine over the years thanks in large part to the fact that it is artistic enough to appeal to women and men love the skin factor. Oh, we're supposed to put up a fight and the NBA always gives us a chip we can play, but in our perverted little hearts we love the Olympics because it's soft core porn. While our wives and girlfriends marvel at the athletic and artistic ability of the skaters, we men are waiting for the spins that will send that tiny little skirt into the air and give us a peek at rock hard butt cheeks. Sick isn't it? Not nearly as sick as the photo spreads in FHM, Gear and Maxim will be in the coming months. And you can bet somebody (Tanith Belbin) (Please) will accept a two million dollar pay day from Playboy to bare all to the world.

But this time around I watched American Idol, a show I really don't like. I think the talent is often overrated and the selection process doesn't help ensure that the best singer reaches the finals. It's a popularity contests where prepubescent girls have the greatest influence over the final outcome. Making the show even more annoying is Paula Abdul who seems to think that everybody has talent. This might be because she has none and enjoyed musical success anyway. You go, Laker Girl.

Randy Jackson is almost as annoying. If he stood up during every song and flailed his arms around like some drunk groupie at a Poison concert the way Paula does he would be her equal, but Randy's crime is his failure to find a thesaurus. Everybody's a dude and Yo, dog, I just wasn't feelin it. That is, of course, unless that was hype, dog. And that whole dog pound thing? Two words: Played Out. That whole thing was tired after the third airing of the Arsenio Hall show. Got to go. By the way, has anybody else noticed that Randy looks like a frog? Kermit's brother from another mother. It's Diggem! Ribbit.

The only redeeming aspect of the show is Simon who will tell it like it is. He gets slammed for being mean, but he's always speaking the truth and that industry is brutal. If the contestants can't handle Simon's barbs they'll be slitting their wrists after a Broadway audition. Yes, it does matter if you're fat, ugly and don't know how to dress. Why do you think Roseanne's singing career went down the tubes? Why do you think pop tarts like Britney Spears and her predecessor Paula Abdul had careers? T and A, baby.

But this isn't about AI. What happened to the Olympic Games? How can an overblown Star Search retread go head to head with the Olympics and win? Why was I sitting there listening to the American Idol contestants read their carefully edited biographies while the Olympics were taking place on NBC?

That answer was revealed when I switched to NBC after the American Idol segment mercifully ended. I tuned into the middle of the women's figure skating telecast and suffered through the boring classical music and hum drum routines. The reason we don't care about the Olympics is because we have seen them before. Sure, Peggy Flemming couldn't land a triple flip, but aside from an extra rotation in the jumps, things haven't progressed in the presentation of the show for 30 years. Same old stodgy crap. To quote Homer Simpson: BORING!

There's too much focus on artistic impression and the skaters are confined to restrictive programs that don't allow the better athletes an opportunity to really shine. In exhibitions skaters are landing backflips and performing to high energy music that gets the crowd excited but in the scored events the judges insist on traditional routines and we are subjected to a series of uninspired performances that all bleed into one. There's no wow factor. The winner is usually the person who makes the fewest mistakes. If you turn the skaters loose and reward them for pushing the envelop the way they do in the halfpipe fans might be inclined to watch. They make the same mistake in gymnastics during the summer games. Rock and Roll has been a part of international culture for over 50 years but it's still forbidden in the Olympics. Why? To most of the participants Rock is the only form of music.

If these judges would listen to Rock they might have been able to take Bob Dylan's sage advice: The Times They are a Changing. We have 40 year-old white people listening to rap. How can you expect the audience to be turned on by skating performances being performed to stale orchestral music that was written 80 years ago? Hey, Chopin was a great composer and I'm sure he influenced countless musicians through the years, but I'll take your word for it. I'd rather see these skaters and ice dancers working out their routines to Black Eyed Peas or Kanye West. You know, I'd settle for Tom Tom Club if we have to compromise, but if I hear one more "aria" I'm going puke. This music was selected from the movie "The English Patient"...BLUGH!

And we have a winner in the pity party finals. This just in: Irina Slutskaya, the Russian skater, has a deathly ill mother and she is suffering her own chronic illness. Combine that with the fact that she's from Russia, which is always a sob story in itself, and you can warm the cockles of the hardest hearts. Dick Cheney doesn't count because we have already established he has no heart. You simply can't beat a top notch skater with vasculitis and a mother in need of a new kidney. Cue the violins, get a camera crew to Moscow. We need footage people! More misery! Why is that woman smiling? Where's the anguish? THE ANGUISH!

The American team had better come up with something fast, or the Russians will win it all. This is why Michelle Kwan pulled out. Strained groin my ass! Women don't even have groins, everybody knows that. Michelle found out the Irina has a chronic illness and knew that it would be impossible to beat her. That, and the fact the Michelle Kwan can't handle Olympic pressure.

But all is not lost. The Americans have a shot if they can capitalize on the fact that two of the women competing on our behalf are deformed. Look closely. Emily Hughes and Sasha Cohen have no chins. And Emily Hughes doesn't have lips! If Team USA wants a shot at Gold they'll have to play this angle to the hilt. Maybe somebody should kidnap Sasha's mom or inject Emily's sister Sarah with the dreaded bird flu virus. Something needs to be done to offset the dramatic edge Slutskaya has over the US team.

As for the ratings, NBC is screwed. They paid big money for long term broadcasting rights to the Olympics and Fox has proven that people will watch something else. Part of the problem is NBC's focus on melodrama, but some of the blame falls on the International Olympic committee for failing to develop games that are compelling to watch. Snowboard cross was a hit, but Alpine Skiing and Figure Skating are losing ground. Curling attracts a better audience than hockey and nobody watches Luge or Bobsled because there isn't enough potential for disaster. Every year people tune in hoping to see a sled fly out of the tube and crash into the stands, but it never happens. If the Jamaican team couldn't accomplish that in 1988 it's not going to happen.

NBC and the Olympic Committee have invested time and money into hyping certain athletes in hopes of drawing an audience. The problem is they lie about how good these athletes are. Bode Miller was marketed as a threat to win five gold medals, but nobody told us that Bode Miller is not internationally recognized as a top five skier. He could have won medals if the Austrian team got lost on the way to Turin. NBC pinned it's hopes on Michelle Kwan, even managing to manipulate the selection process to giver her an exemption in qualifying for the games, but Michelle decided she was not up to the task and she pulled out.

In previous Olympics NBC and the USOC hitched their wagons to charismatic stars who failed to deliver. Anybody remember Dan O'Brien? He was supposed to win the decathlon and failed miserably. And how about the 2004 Men's basketball team? Nice job there, eh? Fans get tired of the promises of things to come and we stop watching. Instead of marketing the American athletes so aggressively, why not market some of the foreign athletes as well? Leading into the games we heard about Apolo Anton Ohno and his short track hopes, but the real story was the Korean team. Why not promote the Korean team and market Ohno as an underdog? It's a little more interesting and a lot more accurate.

It should be very interesting to see how NBC responds to poor ratings. Heads should roll over this and there could be some pretty heated skirmishes between the International Olympic Committee and the executives at NBC. The IOC doesn't have much of a leg to stand on since they aren't attracting much international interest either. There are plenty of empty seats at every event and the city of Turin hasn't been overwhelmed with the revenue these games are generating. Couple that with the fact that NBC decided to change the name of their city from Turin to Torino and it's a bust all the way around.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Here lies Harry the shark, shot by a Dick and nobody narked.

It's terrible that so many people are having such fun with something as serious as an accidental shooting. Where's the humanity? A man was shot in the face and suffered severe complications but does that prevent the witless pundits from taking shots? No. All's fair in the game of ratings and readership.

Ok, I can't keep a straight face. This is funny. Yes, it is. Don't give me this crap about a 78-year-old man spending a week in the ICU, he had it coming. Oh yes he did. Hanging around with Dick Cheney is dangerous enough, but hanging around Dick Cheney when Dick Cheney is armed is just asking for trouble. In case you've missed the last six years, our Vice President really lives up to his first name. If he's not hurling expletives at dissenting congressmen he's setting kittens on fire, punching Walmart greeters, or shooting neighborhood children with a pellet gun. We're talking about a guy who voted down Martin Luther King Day and voted no to a congressional resolution demanding the release of Nelson Mandela while passing legislation that allows companies to dump increased levels of toxins into water supplies. The reason the "D" is capitalized has nothing to do with proper nouns, Mr. Cheney is a penis with legs.

Dick Cheney flosses his teeth with electric eels and sleeps on broken glass. His medical history doesn't tell the tale of chronic heart trouble, it reveals that Dick Cheney has no heart. He is the manifestation of pure unadulterated evil and as if being loathsome wasn't enough, Cheney speaks out of the side of his mouth in a grotesque snarl that George Lucas couldn't bring himself to use when he created Chancellor Palpatine, because Lucas didn't want the evil emperor to be over-the-top. Dick Cheney had to pursue a career in politics because he makes children cry when he looks at them. He never smiles but rather simpers when bad things happen to good people. That's why our country has been embroiled in military conflict for the better part of six years. Dick likes it when people die.

There is no question in my mind that Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington on purpose. All these years he's been sending people out to do the killing and he wanted a taste. He wanted to feel that trigger actuate when he had another human being in his sites. I know that's going out on a limb because it's impossible to prove, but I know he did it. Just like I know Michael Jackson molested those kids and John Goodman accidentally ate the first Becky on the set of Roseanne. Did you notice how much weight he gained during that series? It was almost like he packed on 100 pounds overnight wasn't it? Enter Sarah Chalke. Thank God D.J. didn't get to close to the craft services table.

The secrecy surrounding this shooting has everybody speculating as to what really happened. Some believe the delay in reporting the incident occurred because Cheney is having an affair with Pamela Willeford, who was one of the members of the hunting party but this doesn't make much sense. First of all, who would want to have an affair with Cheney? He's hideous. Maybe Cheney was blackmailing her for sexual favors but there's no way any woman in her right mind would willingly sleep with Dick Cheney. Insiders have reported that Cheney reeks of rotten potatoes, wet socks and Wild Turkey. Apparently the Skynyrd anthem "Ooh, that smell" was written after the band met with Dick Cheney before a live show back in 1970 when Cheney was dodging the draft.

It's quite clear that the reason Cheney didn't report the incident to authorities is because he was liquored up. This isn't surprising as it is customary to drink to excess before undertaking any recreational activity in Texas(I was once pulled over outside of Dallas for NOT having an open container), but since Whittington is a native Texan and Cheney is originally from Nebraska, Cheney would have been required to pay a $25 fine and revoke his hunting license for two weeks had alcohol been a factor in the shooting. Cheney didn't shoot exceptionally well, which is typical of somebody who always sends other off to do his dirty work, Whittington made a smug remark and Cheney popped a cap in his face. Probably went ghetto on him too. Who's the bad shot now, Harry?

Whittington's not going to fess up because Cheney can make one phone call and have everybody in Whittington's family detained in a secret prison somewhere in Europe. Cheney's probably taken that step already just to be on the safe side. In fact, that might be how the Bush Administration maintains its support a little proactive imprisonment keeps the wheels greased. If somebody balks at a Bush resolution, they get a loved one's pinky toe in the mail or the Bush administration sics a hurricane on their hometown. Cheney's idea.

Cheney and other members of the Bush administration have been to the Armstrong ranch before. In fact, the whole plan for invading Iraq was devised after a hunting trip to this ranch when one Bush staffer noted that it's a lot easier to hunt quail when you can wait for them to be released by the hundreds as opposed to having to flush them out one or two at a time. After struggling to track down real terrorists in Afghanistan, Bush and Cheney applied the logic learned at the Armstrong ranch to the war on terror and decided to pick a fight with Iraq. Unfortunately, they didn't factor in how much easier it is to shoot quail since the fat farm raised birds don't exactly put up much of a fight. For some reason, the terrorists being released from the Iraqi covey seem inclined to engage their hunters. It's pretty messy. And expensive.

We'll never get the whole story out of Cheney, but should we be surprised? This has been our administration for six years and they haven't been honest about anything from day one. 9-11? Can't talk about it. Mission Accomplished? Yes, of course it was. Gitmo? Classified. Weapons of Mass Destruction? Ha Ha. Wiretapping? Why are you worried?

It seems as though Whittington got off easy. Cheney only shot him in the face, the rest of us have been getting gang raped by the Bush administration every day for six years.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Celebrity Flakes....

I don't make a point to seek out celebrity news. I have never purchased a tabloid, nor have I ever watched one of the tabloid gossip shows in its entirety. I'm attentive enough to know that Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray is now hosting one of those awful shows and former sportscaster Pat O'Brien eschewed a career covering March Madness to gab about the latest celebrity dirt.

I'm sure Sugar Ray is getting paid lots of money because he's cute and attracts a strong audience of gay men and young girls but Pat O'Brien had the job any man with testicles would do for minimum wage. Maybe Pat was quietly chased out of the sports business because he likes to get plastered and leave vulgar messages for various women in the office. Maybe he could get together with Prince Charles and start up a little phone sex business. You're so hot. I want to be your tampon.

Do women find threesomes sexy? With other women? I didn't think so but apparently Pat thinks the way to a woman's heart is through another woman's hoo-hah. And I can't speak for women, but I know that I don't find the menstrual cycle sexy. Necessary? Sure Natural? Absolutely. But sexy? Nope. Maybe Charles wants to be your tampon, but when the red tide's rolling I prefer to stay off the beach.

But I digress. In spite of the fact that I don't seek out this crap, it still filters in and I am endlessly amazed at how stupid the people we worship can be. Every decade or so we get the skinny on some fad religion. Moonies, Hari Krishnas, Eugenics. Sadly we want to make fun of Richard Gere for being a devoted Buddhist, when the real pin heads are buying into Scientology or Kabbalah. At least Buddhism isn't a sham designed to cater to insecure celebrities seeking spiritual validation. Well, maybe Buddhism does that to a degree, but it's not exactly a fad.

That's what it boils down to, you know? The same is true with the many denominations within different religions. One dogma is a little too strict for the masses so an alternative is created. Most Jews aren't interested in being quite as dedicated as their orthodox brethren so a more user friendly version of Judaism was developed over time. Through the years different popes have made adjustments to Catholicism that have softened the Vatican's stance on issues ranging from fasting to birth control all though there are traditionalists within the church who resist the changes and adhere to the older and typically more stringent standards. I call them religiots. In Islam there are Shi'a and Sunni Muslims who share a basic religion but differ violently on the interpretation. Mostly it's on how to wire the explosives.

Protestant Christianity started with Martin Luther who essentially questioned the manner in which the Vatican was interpreting the bible, which is to say that catholic leaders were robbing all of Europe at bible-point. Those gilded pages can hurt! Once Lutheranism began others followed suit with Henry VIII starting the Anglican Church for the sole purpose of expediting divorces. The underlying theme in Christianity is basically if you don't like what the preacher's saying, start your own church.

Brigham Young didn't like the idea of being stuck with one woman for the rest of his life so he took Joe Smith's Book of Mormon and ran with it...all the way to Utah where he could marry as many women as he liked and nobody could do anything about it. Especially the women, who certainly didn't want to try their luck escaping into a desert. Of course the tradition was to marry girls. It wasn't uncommon for a 13-year-old girl to be married off to a 40 year-old man back then. Charming isn't it? And you thought Ringo was a pervert for singing to 16 year-old girls, didn't you?

For celebrities it's important to be different. Sure, traditionalists like Mel Gibson will opt to use a big budget movie to cram their religion down your throat...while making a couple of million bucks. Jesus had to love that. But for stars like Tom Cruise (who is not gay) and Madonna it's not enough to be passionate about a religion, they need something special to cling to. Something that people will talk about and has a flexible dogma so they won't burn in hell for their sins. Kabbalah and Scientology create a nice buzz and the theology is pliable enough to allow the celebrity to enjoy a lifestyle of shameless excess without feeling guilty. After all, most of the traditional religions don't make one feel too good about paying $300,000 for a caviar enema.

You see, Jesus wouldn't have jumped on Oprah's couch and gone out of his way to pass judgment on Brooke Shields. Of course Jesus probably wouldn't believe that there were microscopic aliens in his brain that needed to be audited by a professional Scientologist. So if Tom Cruise were forced to ask himself "What Would Jesus Do?" we wouldn't have been treated to his disturbing behavior. Poor Katie Homes, by the time Tom's done with her she won't have a brain left (not that she had much of one to start with). The Scientologists Tom consorts with will nuke the parts of her brain that allow for free thought and Katie will be reduced to a nice rack on a set of long legs. Or what is commonly referred to as Charlize Theron. How else do you explain Aeon Flux?

According to most genuine Kabbalahists, or whatever they call themselves, Madonna and her ilk aren't practicing anything they've ever heard of. Apparently celebrities dig the name and the bracelets, but pretty much make up everything else as they go. Nothing new there. It's always better to worship in word than to practice in deed. Easier anyway.

I shouldn't be too hard on celebrities because lots of people are stupid, but celebrities make the mistake of publicizing their foolishness. And it's not just religions either. Without a doubt the absolute worst parents in the world are celebrity parents. Oh yes they are. I'm not talking about Britney Spears driving around with her baby on her lap either. Let's be honest with ourselves here.

My parents raised four kids and I don't recall ever seeing a car seat. I remember sitting on my dad's lap while he let me steer the car down the road to our house. Ok, I was 29 but still...and I'm not alone because Bruce Springsteen sang about that very same experience in his hit My Hometown. Somewhere along the line we became obsessed with car seats and now you have to securely lock children in an approved car seat anytime you think about driving. Making matters worse is the fact that legislation is being passed to criminalize smoking in the car if kids are present. Now that's just asking for trouble. For millions of parents the only thing preventing them from throwing their screaming kids out of the car is soothing power of cigarettes. Remember Susan Smith? Her kids are dead for two reasons. They were locked in car seats and mom was out of smokes. Had my parents not smoked on some of the longer trips I suspect that none of us would have made it out of childhood alive. As it was Mom and Dad only bumped off two of us. That's restraint.

And let's think about what we're getting upset with. Britney and Kevin's spawn. Britney's even taken flack for smoking around her kid. So? Do we really want that unholy munchkin growing up to plague us? No! So I say to Brit: Drive on momma. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. You've come a long way, baby! And treat yourself to a cold one, honey. It's Miller Time. Same goes for Michael Jackson. Insanity is genetic. Odds are that Wacko Jacko's kid is going to make him look as normal as grilled cheese. So bomb's away, right? I know it's mean, but kids die everyday... why not eliminate the future maniacs?

No, Britney's not that bad a mommy. Yet. The worst act of celebrity child abuse has to be in the naming of the children. Chances are the kids are going to be pretty screwed up anyway, given the fact that the parents aren't exactly stable in most cases, but then the poor tyke has to get saddled with a terrible name. Unique is always cool, and some celebrities hit home runs with names their kids will undoubtedly be proud of. Forrest Whitaker took that leap and landed successfully naming his kids Ocean, True and Sonnet, but My Name is Earl star Jason Lee should have the paperwork ready to change his child's moniker from the wacky Pilot Inspektor to something a little more grounded like Booger.

Gwen Paltrow and her overrated Sting-wannabe husband Chris Martin dubbed their first brat Apple and promise to name their second yard-ape something even more unique. I was thinking Pear since Mango was already purloined by Saturday Night Live and Banana would cause interstellar chaos if somebody tried to slide it into the name game song. Banana Fana Banana...AHHH! Perhaps they'll depart from the produce theme and opt for something smooth like Velveeta. Maybe food is too obvious and they'll shock us with something more industrial like Impact Wrench. I just hope they don't take Charmin. I was saving that one for my first child because I want people to think twice about squeezing my baby.

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore didn't do too much damage with Rumor and Scout. I don't like the names because the reference is too obvious, but those kids won't end up in a mental institution. Tallulah, however, is a bad name in spite of the fact that it has some tradition to it. That kid is going to end up being one of those Kindergarten teachers who is always two steps behind the kids. Or she'll be a spiritual advisor based out of a Boise trailer park. Sadly there are simply some names that need to die. Bertha(Butt), Eunice (Eww!), Guido(Seriously!), etc. Madonna reached into that well and saddled her son with Rocco which guarantees him a career as a either brutish nightclub bouncer or, if we're being ironic, he'll be a high strung interior decorator with a heavy lisp and a flowery personality. Either live up to the name or completely rebel against it. Diane Keaton took old names that should be forgotten a step further by dubbing a daughter Dexter. Look, Dexter's a fine name for a dreadlocked Jamaican bartender on the seedy side of the Kingston strip, but somebody as pretentious as Diane Keaton can't breed a kid cool enough to pull it off. Boys names for girls can work if the name is classic or artistic or even a little androgynous, but Dexter isn't one of them. Not by a long shot.

In all honesty, I firmly believe that these names are made up to mislead the public. I can't believe that so many people are selfish enough to pick names that only serve to draw more attention to the parents. Think about it. What did Tom Hanks name his kid? I have no idea. I didn't know what Goldie Hawn named her kid until Kate Hudson became a star in her own right. The fact is we don't talk about celebrity spawn unless the stars opt for an outlandish name. Apple might not be a great name for Paltrow's kid, but Gwen sure got some mileage out of that name, didn't she? In fact, the only reason anybody is even talking about Paltrow is because she named her kid Apple. Brilliant publicity move, but don't color me stunned when a 300 pound Apple shows up on Oprah in 20 years to whine about her horrible life named after a fruit. If only they would have named me after a specific apple, like Gala or Fuji! I would have had an identity. WAAH!

It can't be real. People can't be that shallow. Not that many people anyway.The documentation is forged and the stars are able to provide their children with a degree of anonymity. That's a good thing. Kids shouldn't have to grow up hounded by the images of their parents. Look what happened to Chastity Bono. She's fat, butch and humiliating herself on Celebrity Fit Club. Mom's hot, I'm not and the whole world's gonna know it. Nice. Cher should have spent a little less time banging roadies and a little more time being a mom, don't you think? Should have anyway. And Chastity isn't even one of those potentially hot lesbians, like the ones in adult movies...the kind her mom would be. It's almost as though Chastity chose to become a boy because her mother has such an unhealthy infatuation with them. Do you love me now?

Of course, celebrities aren't the only people to screw up their kids. Regular folks do it all the time. They try to be different and create alternate spellings of common names or they go with the arrogant angle and name their kids after themselves. Tradition schmadtion. Caesar is a salad, not a name.

Brandy and Debbie are fine, but if you fool around and try to go with Brandee or Debbi you'll seal your daughter's fate as a porn queen. Names like Tawny and Bambi are like pornography scholarships. Amy is a fine name but Aimee will find herself sleeping with every member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity before the end of her freshman year. And look out for Rhea. Some pronounce it "RAY" some go with "RIA" but it's spelled "RIA" and it doesn't take long for kids to connect the name with other things that sound like "RIA". Boys are influenced by names too. Tom is a good name, but if you insist on keeping that "h" in there and the boy grows up as Thom he'll be a female impersonator. Kyle, Seth and Bruce all carry a certain cachet. And cachet is something you don't want your boy having.

I'm not implying that there's anything wrong with being gay, but you don't want your son growing up to be prissy. I'm very open-minded when it comes to sexual orientation but I want my kids to be no less than equal partners in their relationships and I prefer if they are the more dominant force. If that means junior grows up to be a top then so be it.

I've seen Tequila in use and I don't think that's a good way to go. I suppose Brandy is derived from a beverage as well but Brandy is refined and the name has been around for a long time. Tequila has a different image than Brandy. You simply don't see Brandy in those border town bars that feature a nightly donkey show, but there's always lots of Tequila. Of course high power types like to stick their cigars in Brandy so I suppose there's a trade off.

Other names parents go with are begging for trouble. Deuce is vogue now, particularly in the black community, but it rhymes with douche. Sure, if your boy grows up to be a NFL star there's no problem but if he's not very athletic he'll spend his formative years getting the snot kicked out of him on a daily basis. And don't get me started on Tre.

Hey Mike, what do you carry your lunch on?

I don't know.

You put it on a tray!

Then the food gets dumped on a kid's head, everybody laughs and Tre grows up to become a sadistic murderer. It happens. Remember the Columbine shootings? There's so much in a name.

The point I'm making (or making up for the sake of closure) is that you don't have to go to such extremes to make a fool of yourself or your kids. Simply being an active parent will humiliate your children more than any name ever could and if you feel the need to abuse them then smack them around every once in while. Once you've had your fun and they grow up, it's only fair that they not be saddled with some awful name for the rest of their lives.

As for fringe religions and cults, you don't need to seek out strange new spiritual organizations to feel like you're being manipulated, join a book club, a gym or activate a Sierra Club membership. You get the same experience of being taken advantage of without coming across as some sort of misguided freak in desperate need of salvation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rolling Stones gather moss after all.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Rolling Stones. I think they cast a bigger shadow over Rock music than any other group or artist. That's saying a lot, but it's true. The Rolling Stones brought that raunchy edge to Rock that was sorely lacking before they hit the scene. Sure, there were people who pushed the envelope, but the Rolling Stones ripped it to shreds.

Sadly, it seems their best days are long behind them. Let's face it. These guys aren't the best musicians in the world. Their claim to fame has never been their musical prowess. It's the total package that made them special. There was a time when the Rolling Stones would have happily performed the Super Bowl Halftime show for no other reason than to shock its audience. We're talking about a band that stunned the entire world with its audacity in releasing songs that featured not so subtle euphemisms about sex and drugs. The once wild stallions that made the Stones bigger than they had any right to be are now impotent geldings. What makes the Stones utterly frustrating is the fact that they have not become better musicians with age.

Let's face it. Aerosmith started out as a mediocre band that caught lightning in a bottle with a few strong riffs and couple of drug-induced hooks. What makes Aerosmith different is the fact that they improved musically. Ok, Steve has resorted to his falsetto shriek full time, but the rest of the band has honed their skills and manages to stay relevant by crafting solid musical arrangements. Joe Perry has become one of the better guitar players in the business in spite of starting out as a very average axe hack. Such a transformation is typically the rule rather than the exception. You get better with experience.

The Stones have not. They haven't laid down truly original track in 20 years and the limited success they have enjoyed has been spurred by hyper-nostalgic baby boomers desperately clinging to that vicarious vitality that that Stones supposedly exude. As long as people are willing to drop two hundred books a ticket to watch Mick and the boys rehash their classics with all the flair and heartfelt dedication of an over-the-hill tribute band, there's no need to develop from a musical perspective. This year's halftime music act proved that the Stones just don't cut it. Worst concert ever. Maybe the soundman didn't get his board tuned; maybe the hookups were fouled. Perhaps it's time for these geezers to call it a career. It's been a great ride fellas, thanks for the memories.

Of course, the Stones aren't alone in their geriatric mediocrity. Aaron Neville couldn't deliver his iconic falsetto through his third of the National Anthem and Aretha Franklin, in typical diva fashion, seemed intent on proving that she could sing higher than Aaron and failed miserably. Roseanne Barr stirred the self-righteous dignity of our nation's weekend patriots when she offered up a poorly conceived rendition of our nation's anthem, but at least Rosie was consistent and stayed within herself. Aretha and Aaron fell to pieces. They couldn't hit the high notes and failed to carry the strong ones. It was one of the lamest performances I have ever heard. I would have rather listened to Dr. John sing the anthem in his trademark Bourbon Street rasp.

Ironically I watched a special high lighting Super Bowl moments earlier that day and one of the moments discussed was Whitney Houston's powerful National Anthem performance back in 1991. I typically dismiss it as a fraud since it has been disclosed that Whitney lip-synced over a carefully edited tape she had made weeks earlier. After last night I think that it might be time to consider the benefits of a lip-synced performance. A DJ beats the socks off a band at a wedding, maybe the same holds true for Super Bowl musical acts. Yes, a DJ beats a band every time. Bands might be classier but I haven't seen a wedding band that can follow up a cover of YMCA with Outkast's Hey Ya! Even a very good band lacks the versatility a DJ brings to the table. It's worth noting that if you don't want me to come to your wedding but you still want to send an invitation to obligate me for a gift just disclose that you'll be having a band perform. I'll RSVP that I can't make it. Cable guy's coming.

Personally I think the problem is that the networks sink their hooks into the entertainment and it gets too complicated. These pinhead executives think that they have to set the world on fire as though a musical guest is suddenly going to capture the attention of the six people in the world who don't watch the Super Bowl. Some of the best Anthem renditions are performed during regular season games by acts booked by the teams. Sometimes it's a local talent, other times it might be a guest who's in town for another event. The lesser known acts do better with the Anthem because they don't have enough arrogance to assume they have the right to alter the character of the song. Aretha was guilty of that. Instead of delivering the song straight up and hitting the notes Francis Scott Key originally penned the lyrics to, she delved into her own interpretation. It didn't work.

In the future, sports leagues and network executives would do well to leave the event planning up to the hosting city. I still remember how insulting it was to see NBC trot out Lea Thompson to sing the National Anthem when the Cleveland Indians hosted game four of the World Series in 1997. Cleveland's not necessarily an entertainment mecca, but it does provide a home to the Rock-n-Roll hall of fame. Surely there was somebody better to sing the National Anthem, but Lea Thompson was the lead actress on a foundering show and NBC decided it was OK to cram her down our throats. Commercial oppression at it's best. The thing I hate about Lea Thompson is that she was really famous for a while but not talented enough to get away with not doing any gratuitous nude scenes. How did that happen? I've seen Kathy Bates naked, but not Lea Thompson. Of course I've heard her sing...somehow I think I got hosed.

Let's stop over thinking these things. Big stars already get too much face time. Why not simplify the process and give some lesser-known people the opportunity to shine? In fact, promise viewers a 20-minute block of the most outrageous and entertaining commercials ever produced and you'll get better ratings. People obsess over Super Bowl Commercials. They sell themselves. Who needs a game? It's not like we had a good one this time around.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bode Miller...skiing super villain.

The Olympics are coming. Yippy.

This year all eyes will be on Bode Miller, the brightest star on the US skiing team. Bode became the center of controversy when he intimated that he's skied while carrying a layover buzz from the night before.

Media-types were aghast. How could a world class athlete be so irresponsible as to abuse alcohol the night before a competitive event? And of course, what about the poor children out there who heard the 60 Minutes interview? Yes, the children. They'll all start drinking heavily so they can be just like Bode...Oh, the humanity!

Except that nobody with a semblance of a life ever watches 60 Minutes. I only heard about Miller's comments on ESPN when every talking head chimed in with his eight cents. Yes, I said eight cents because they spent four times the amount of coverage necessary to babble on about it. Big frigging deal, a drinking skier. Whoa, nelly! Stop the presses.

I ski. I drink. I drink and ski and I have skied drunk. It happens. Yes it can be dangerous and there was an incident I hope to never repeat, but I generally stay in control. I can also tell you that a lot of kids are skiing under the influence of substances a lot more controlled than booze and Bode Miller's got nothing to do with it.

The problem isn't Bode Miller, it's us. Our society doesn't give a rat's paw about skiing, snowboarding, skating or curling until the Winter Olympics are here and then we want four years worth of coverage. After the Olympics these athletes fade back into anonymity and many aren't even able to compete in the following Olympiad. One hit wonders.

Why do you think Michelle Kwan can't win Olympic gold? She's a dominant force in the World Championships but come Olympic time you can almost hear her gagging. Summer Olympian and gymnastics champion Blaine Wilson is another example of someone who couldn't deliver on his sport's biggest stage. What about Captain Soul Patch, the skater guy, Apollo something-Ono...remember him? Barely, right? In the last Olympics he crashed and burned even though he was a heavy favorite to win it all. Do you suppose the barrage of media coverage might have distracted him just a bit?

It's the pressure. These athletes are virtually unknown throughout their careers except for a two month window once every four years when the Olympics take center stage. Then we insist on knowing everything about them, where they're from, what they eat, who they think is cute and how they hang their toilet paper. The reporters sift through every athlete's bio to find some human interest angle that will tug at our heart strings. With Miller we were fed some story about how he grew up in a backwoods cabin with hippy parents, with Ono we got the troubled youth angle. Suddenly these kids can't go anywhere without having a press corps filming every move and examining every detail.

Some crack under the pressure and their performances suffer, offers lash out and say stupid things. Even if Bode Miller does opt to down a case of High Life the night before he skis, is it really our place to question him? It's not like he'll hurt anybody but himself.

Don't we have bigger fish to fry? In sports, we have Barry Bonds and his ever expanding head set to break all time baseball records but nobody is questioning his motivation for bailing out of the World Baseball Classic. The man has defied age becoming bigger, stronger and faster in his late 30's, but we seem more concerned with Bode Miller's attitude than we are with Barry Bonds cheating with steroids, hormones and rhinoceros testicle extract.

In Hollywood we still don't know which actresses are stuffing their fun bags, and how many studly actors are really gay. Come on Tom Cruise, we know that you snagged Katie Holmes because she really thinks you and Giovanni Ribisi are just playing Twister in your rumpus room. Naked? Yeah, and the latex fist really is a trophy from your days on the Bare Knuckles fighting circuit. Heterosexual men might listen to Air Supply, but not together. Come clean. Your Thetans are calling.

And let's not even get started with politics. Man alive, if the real reporters were as aggressive with their coverage of real news as these wannabe sports hacks are with forgettable sporting events, we might have all the world's problems solved. This country seems more concerned with how many shots Bode Miller will do the night before the Super G, than it is over the whole wire tapping scandal.

Here's an idea. Let's dispense with the melodrama. Let's stop pretending we care about the athletes and just use the time to show more action. Every year Bob Costas waxes poetically about the bigger meaning of the games, and we are subjected to long boring stories about the trials and tribulations some athlete endured along the way. I don't care. Go out and do your thing.

This year we'll miss 15 minutes of skating coverage so NBC can inundate us with Michelle Kwan's story of Olympic failure and her last chance at redemption. It's not like anybody has stolen Olympic glory from her, she had her chances and choked. Boo-friggin-hoo. Get the job done or go home. Undoubtedly we'll have the Bode Miller saga rehashed and NBC will try to get him cornered long enough to recant the confession he made on 60 Minutes. How about you just show the guys skiing down the hill really fast?

I'm a sports fan, I want to see sports performance. Keep the soap opera drama out of it.