Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Is this off topic?

I visited my mother last week. We switched on the teevee to catch the news before the Mets game, and it was all about Paris Hilton. So who is this woman anyway, and why is she famous, my mother wanted to know.

I said well, she's heir to the Hilton hotel fortune, but she's famous because one of her boyfriends surreptitiously videotaped them having sex and put it on the Internet, or at least that's the official story but she was probably in on it.

Oh really? said Mom. There was this other woman with two first names who was murdered or something a few months back, who the hell was she?

Well, I explained, that's Anna Nicole Smith. She wasn't murdered as it turned out, she just OD'd. She was a Playboy centerfold who married an 80 year old rich guy, who promptly croaked according to plan. His relatives sued to try to stop her from inheriting the estate but they lost. When she died leaving behind an infant there was a contest among her various sexual partners to see who would win the paternity test and end up controlling the boodle.

That's it. I'm proud of my mother for managing not to know any of that -- it was a difficult achievement. But I've got to say, when you spell it out like that, it raises a vexing question indeed. Why hasn't Wolf Blitzer committed suicide, or at least retired to a monastery? And why the hell do all those people have bumper stickers that say "Proud to be an American"?

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