Friday, February 09, 2007

Not quite so funny

I think perhaps I'm beginning to soften in my old age. There was a time when I was younger that I certainly wouldn't have passed up the easy zinger and the cheap and cutting shot. And this was to people I might see in the flesh. When they're people to whom the only connection you have with them is what you see on television or read in the newspapers, then it becomes exponentially easier.

But oddly, I'm having problems finding much funny or mean to say about the death of Anna Nicole Smith, for example. Granted, I had little respect and less interest in the woman. She made her living out of keeping her name and face in the tabloids as much as possible. There are less honourable ways of making a living, of course. But tabloid fodder as a career tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth. For example you get the feeling that something is just laying the tall grass for Paris Hilton and that's going to come to a messy end. A karmic retribution, as it were. And sadly, I might feel a smidgen of joy when/if that happens just because I'm hard pressed to think of a bigger waste of genetic material than Paris Hilton.

But I digress.

Anyway, Smith died of what is likely drug related issues leaving behind a five month old daughter with uncertain parentage and a massive lawsuit against a Texas oil family. I don't know, as much as I like mocking, I can't get my heart into this one.

But of course the real zinger for the week is Captain Lisa Nowak. From the start, even with all the details coming out about a love triangle, the bungled kidnapping attempts and, of course, the diaper, I never found it funny. Bizarre, certainly. But never funny. That certainly wasn't the case with much of the coverage coming out of the United States. While I didn't see what Letterman and Leno did, I imagine there were quite a few jokes. Jon Stewart did. And I appreciate that it's such a strange, strange story that it's hard to pass up.

But I never thought it was funny. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, though. However, the stories that have been coming out in the past 24 hours have put a better perspective on things. The tremendous amount of pressure astronauts are under at the best of times. That it tends to be worse for women and even moreso for those who are mothers.

And then there's the kicker – that the coping mechanisms that me or you might take advantage of if we were under high amounts of stress, they won't use them. Your rewards for admitting you have a problem and might be losing it a bit? You get pulled off active duty and quite likely will never get to achieve your life long dream, the on thing you've trained decades for – to get into space.

So if you were losing it, but were still sane enough to know the consequences of admitting it, what would you do? You'd glue them together and pray they won't shatter and fly all over the place. And as it happened with Nowak last week, the pieces apparently finally came apart.

All I can think of is this woman who the world thought had so much, who worked so hard and went and lost her mind and there was no one she could talk to. I just can't find it funny. It's sad. It's tragic.

So I guess I'm becoming more sympathetic in my old age.

Except over Paris Hilton. Nobody should feel any humanity towards her.

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