February 2007

Justifiable Homicide?

No doubt Jack the Ripper excused himself on the grounds that it was human nature.
  A. A. Milne

I’m thinking America prefers big-breasted blondes with fattish thighs, oh, and of course, dumber than a box of rocks.  What do you think?  I’m talking about the basic Anna Nicole Smith model.

First, a few disclosures.  Genuinely dumb people are humans, too. They are as capable of feeling pain and humiliation as the next person. And they have mothers. Mothers who carried them and hopefully, loved them.  So out of respect for motherhood, I advise sensitivity. But in Anna Nicole’s case, Mom is a grasping Texas leech of a hair-burned harpy. Those parameters acknowledged, let’s continue.

Of what possible interest are the lives of stupid people?  When I observe most types of stupidity, I stop looking.  I do not want to see more.  I avert my eyes.  And mind.

The day Anna Nicole Smith died I was going to watch the Chris Mathews show called Hardball.  But the previous MSNBC hour had been taken-up with the late breaking news of poor Anna’s death.  Okay. Fine. An obese, third rate talent, a purveyor of poorly crafted breasts, yet, ironically, decent dental work, a woman with the ability to make designer gowns look tawdry, died.  She gold-digged (No, of course not, it was genuine love—of his big back-pocket bulge.) her way into an incredible fortune and subsequent (mildly amusing) lawsuit with the genetic heirs.

Give her death an hour if you must.  Out of 300 million people, Anna Nicole’s death warrants more than an hour of our (America’s) collective time?  This is telling us something.  More on that later.

Back to Hardball.  So when Anna’s death spilled over into a TV show I watch with some regularity, I was absolutely livid.   I shouted. I ranted. To no one but myself.  I asked in amazement, “How can this be?”

Over and over, I declared to our insensitive world, “Who cares?  Who cares if Anna Nicole Smith is dead?”

“Who cares.  Who possibly cares one whit about this air-biscuit?”

Finally, I thought, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not taking this any longer!”

I grabbed my lap top and Googled Chris Mathews and the Hardball show looking for a phone number. To no avail.  I brought up the business pages for Washington DC.  Still with no immediate success.  I looked through the MSNBC phone listings and nothing popped.

I went through the operator and finally tracked a number down.  The wrong one.  I reconnected with the operator, pushed harder and finally got the actual studio number for Hardball and after five or six rings an obviously young male voice answered.

I aggressively asked for the appropriate title (suit) and was told, “I’m the intern. They’re all upstairs producing the show.” He had a “fer-Gawd sakes, I’m just the intern” tone to his voice.

I started into him, pulled up short and said, “I know you are not responsible for pulling the plug on the show but please share with the powers that be, that someone has to be dumber than a box of rocks to think that Hardball viewers are at all interested in the death of Anna Nicole.  Blah, blah, blah.”

As I slobbered on, it dawned on me that I needed to talk to corporate MSNBC in New York. I thanked the lad for listening and moved up the food chain looking for something meatier to chew on.

Similar challenges ensued finding the right number. Finally, I get the mid-management corporate boy and let fly with both barrels and then I heard a click, followed by silence. I was hung up on. Justifiably so, I might add.  I was derogatory concerning the intelligence behind the decision to invest any airtime to her death. I wasn’t mincing my words.   I would have hung up, too.

I called back incensed, how dare he hang up?   It rang and rang and rang. Five or six times I called.  I fumed.  I stewed. I swore. Finally, I laughed.  This is too funny.

I had invested an hour to the impossible quest.  Sanity.  The next day I heard the host of the Tucker TV show (precedes Hardball) say that MSNBC had garnered great ratings from the station’s coverage of her death.

Well, there you have it. Great ratings.  Stupidity sells. And really big stupidity sells really big.  Products (and you and I) are sold on shows selling big stupidity. Have I a Chrysler for you!

Welcome to 21st century America. Jack the Ripper murdered English whores.

It’s a much, much bigger challenge (metaphorically speaking, of course) when the number of American whores (Possibly, our nature?) is in the tens, nay, hundreds of millions.

Jack excused himself.  Do we?

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


Dreams Don’t Retire?

I marvel at the TV advertisements of a gray haired Dennis Hopper telling my Boomer generation just how special our dreams are because we didn’t accept the status quo back then (60s) and, by gawd, we’re not going to end up shuffleboarding now!  He’s shilling some financial planning product from Amerprise Corporation. It’s all done to a catchy, booming tune many Boomers, no doubt, once danced to.

Backdropped by blue skies and crystal clear tropical waters Hopper nasally reads the definition of retirement and then emphatically throws the dictionary to the sand and the image fades to an energetic couple tooling down (boom, boom, boom) the highway or of a chap (the obvious independent sort) standing on the roof of his car taking photos of Obscure, New Mexico or of a man building a catamaran or of an older woman starting an esoteric nursery business. I love it.

I’m a bit unsure of what the Boomer does who has not adequately invested for retirement.  Plays shuffleboard, I guess.  Or, works at Publix.  “Hey!  Totally unprepared for retirement,” bellows Hopper in a possible new advertisement.  “Work for minimum wage and all the old vegetables you can lug home in your car.”  Sigh.

I saw the movie, Venus, starring Peter O’Toole and loved it. He’s 74. Unfortunately, he looks 87.  Obviously the man was rode hard and too often put to bed wet. It is a sweet little movie and O’Toole does a marvelous bit of acting.  But at some point, all of us end up doddering, old and opinionated eccentrics (if we’re lucky), concerned about our bowels, our backs and our memories.

We Boomers are frequently accused, as a generation, of being indulged and self-absorbed.  I am going to agree with that to a degree. At no time in history did so many children grow up in (relative) affluence. I believe it only natural that Boomer parents wanted the “best” for their children and to the degree they could provide it, they did. However, I do not believe Boomers anymore selfish as group (of human beings) than any other generation given similar circumstances. The more wealth, the more choices.

But, given more choices (by way of education, wealth and health) I would hope our dreams include dying with dignity. The biggest gift this (Boomer) generation can give to the next is to die in a dignified and timely manner.

We’ve planned for our educations. We’ve planned our families.  We’ve planned our vacations. (Too bad, huh, we don’t plan our wars.)   We’ve health plans. Dental plans. Retirement plans. Dreams may not retire but bodies sure do. I’m so sorry kids, but someday this party called life does actually end. So, what’s your end plan? Your end game?

To suck every ounce of breath out of your inexorably decaying body, to use up every last available dollar of insurance coverage lying fetal like in a skilled nursing bed (crippling the nation with punishing, end-of-life health care bills)? To create hell and havoc for your children because advanced science and technology can keep ol’ Grampa Chris alive even though his brain checked out months ago? Nay, years ago.

Sure, create a Living Will, have DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) tattooed on your forehead but I suggest an additional step, develop an Ice Floe Mentality.

Rather, a Get Thee To An Ice Floe Mentality.  Take control of your death just as you took control of your life. What are you going to do when the good doctor tells you the “end” is near? (It’s always been approaching.) And you’re still mobile and competent. What are you going to do when you know, it’s enough, you’ve lived long enough? Have someone else make “that” decision for you? Or worse, make no decision at all?   Do not die without intention.

What are you going to do?  Wait until you’re reduced to vegetable matter? We don’t expect that, even of dogs.

Yo, Boomers!  Have the courage of your alleged convictions. Find the edge (metaphorically and literally) of the ice floe and hum a few bars of: Dream a little dream of me. As that luminous Indian chief said (more than once) in the movie, Little Big Man, “It’s a good day to die.”  Plan on it.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


On Reinvention

This week’s column is a grab-bag of assorted issues, ideas and notions.  I was originally going to answer the burning political question: Can a Mormon be elected President?   I started researching the beliefs of Mormonism, asking intelligent people what they understood about the religion, trying to determine why “some” consider it more a cult than a religion and whether or not Mormonism is markedly different from mainstream American religions.

Ex-Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is considering a Republican run for the presidency.   I’ve discovered in just a superficial perusal of Mormon beliefs that if you’re a “really” good Mormon, you get a planet upon death.  Mormons believe God is a creature from another planet, that He had a wife and He brought her along for the trip (Don’t leave home without one.).

The following might be a tough sell to America’s many feminists, but Mormon women don’t have a prayer of getting into heaven unless they are married. They’re never eligible for a planet, either. How equitable is that?  C’mon!

Oh, if I have this substantially wrong, would my Mormon readers please explain where I am mistaken. Chapter & verse, please.

The question of whether or not such notions are too much for the electorate, I will explore in subsequent essays.  As “strange” as Mormon beliefs may sound, I think a review of Baptist, Catholic and Jewish beliefs might be appropriate vis-à-vis what is considered strange religious beliefs.

It’s going to be fun.  In my research I discovered some genuinely bad news for our Muslim believers.  You know how the West is now targeted by some Muslims as so offensive that suicide bombers are religiously justified in melting the flesh off innocent babies through terrorist attacks.  That the many mind-warped bombers are applauded in some Muslim circles, not only that, but the holy book of Islam, the Koran promises 72 virgins to martyrs who willingly melt the flesh off deserving infidel babies.

Well, here’s the bad news. Yes, they get 72 virgins.  Yes, indeedy. Only, it turns out that the 72 virgins are all 90-year-old Catholics from a convent in southern Italy.  Gollee Gomer, it’s the ecumenical approach!  Enough already, with superstitions and on to reality!

I received an e-mail from Ann Ewing of Des Moines, Iowa about my essay on those magnifying mirrors and one’s face. Ann wrote and to quote her facialist, "For God's sake stay away from a magnifying mirror!"

The lovely Ms. Ann went on to say, “That’s my way [not looking] of dealing with those jowls you referred to. The problem is I can see those puppies without the magnifier! Wait till you reach that stage!”

My goodness!  You mean I’m going to be able to see all my many imperfections with just my unfettered eye(s)? That’s my future?  Sigh.

Another reader the classically beautiful and refined Martha Williamson of Winter Park observed, “I got a kick out of your take on magnifying mirrors. They are my safety net preventing Old-lady makeup wherein lipstick wanders outside the lips and eyebrows continue all across the head. My favorite model is a 10X from Brookstone.”

Old-lady!  If Ms. Williamson be that, well, I’m ancient Runic.  I should look half so good.  Aside: Talk about a product testimonial!

Finally, I was dining with my brother and we got to talking about old times and mutual friends.  Someone we grew-up with in Sioux City once decided (as an adult) to change his name from Stu Nichols to Abner Farnsworth and that was what he went as for over a year.  He was introduced as Abner Farnsworth.  Too funny.

I love it. Life is all about reinvention.  Whether it be our names, our faces or our future (see various religious texts).  Some of us get new faces, others try new names and for the select few (Male & Mormon), a new planet.

I’m left with a quote by Saul Bellow which neatly sums it up, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

Pass the cold cream, Hon!

Reach Jepson at: