Star Gazing: Comets, Actors, and Angelina’s Right Leg

by Walter Brasch

           In 1973, some friends and I went to the rooftop of our apartment building to watch Comet Kahoutek, touted by astronomers and the media as the comet of all comets. We were sure we’d see it since we had the requisite equipment-binoculars and beer.

           But we didn’t see the comet. Not that night nor the next night. What we did see was a lot of universe. And while we talked about the ungrateful comet that barely shone against a perfect sky, we explored a lot of questions about life, relationships, and our place in the universe. And we realized that no matter how egocentric we were, or how many kudos we earned from our peers, the universe must have a greater mission or reason for being than just to provide support for a few college students.

           Growing up and working in Southern California, stars have been a part of my life. I could go to the Griffith Park and Mt. Palomar observatories; I could also hang around places where stars, near-stars, and pretend-stars walked, shopped, and ate.

           Probably, that’s why I have a number of concerns about stars that are light years away and stars that are as far away as a TV or movie screen.

           I’m concerned about our planet’s own star. Astrophysicists-the kind who actually know what warp speed means and why Scotty can’t give Capt. Kirk any more power-have determined that the sun is five billion years old, and will burn out in another five billion years. I’m concerned that no one knows how to treat a star for mid-life crises.

           And speaking of stars with mid-life crises, I wish the media would stop wasting ink and airtime about every 50s- or 60s-year-old male actor who dates a 20-something female? If they want to date someone who scratches her head when the name Paul McCartney comes up, and then, as if two brain cells connected, suddenly asks if McCartney wasn’t that old guy in some band named Wings-well, that’s their own business.

           I’m concerned that weeks before the Academy Awards, entertainment media know-it-alls tell us their predictions, encapsulated by a “who should win/who will will” story of erudite nonsense. Minutes after the ceremony, they trumpet their few correct predictions and mute their pomposity by telling us that such-and-such Oscar was a major upset, as if some magical fairy changed the votes without telling them.

           I’m concerned that TV reporters parade their “intimacy” with the stars by calling them by their “close-friend-only” names. We all know about “Sly” Stallone, “Bob” Redford, and “Bobby” Duvall. The media called Elizabeth Taylor “Liz,” possibly because they had trouble pronouncing a four-syllable word; Taylor hated to be called Liz, but that made little difference. Maybe some of the stars should call reporters by their nicknames. Maybe we’ll learn about “Speed Bump,” “Jerkface,” and “Cuddles.”

           The pre-Oscar runway special focuses not upon the art and craft of acting or movie making, but upon fashion. This year, ABC-TV sent five co-anchors (three of them fashion experts) onto the red carpet to interview the A-list. There was so much they could ask, and so much that the stars would have preferred to have been asked, but most of the questions revolved around, “Who are you wearing?” Clad in $10,000 one-of-a-kind dresses donated by designers in exchange for the free publicity, the stars gave names and tried to look excited rather than incredulous when asked, “So are you excited?” When not asking about the who, the co-anchors asked questions that focused upon looks. Frankly, it was nauseating to hear Tim Gunn twice tell Melissa Rivers that she had buns of steel, and Rivers saying that women who don’t squeeze their own buns won’t attract men who will squeeze them.

           Finally, a few days after the ceremony there aren’t many who remember the dresses or the winners, especially who won the Oscars for writing the Best Original Screenplay and the Best Adapted Screenplay. But, probably everyone remembers Angelina Jolie’s right leg. Jolie, who announced the award, wore a split dress, and brazenly showed her right leg. By the end of the awards show, there was a Twitter account (@angiesrightleg). Within two days, the leg had more than 35,000 followers, and was the subject of thousands of stories, parodies, and comedy monologues. For awhile, the skinny knock-kneed leg on one of the most beautiful actors and humanitarians allowed people to temporarily forget rising gas prices, layoffs, and a vicious presidential political campaign. It did for the people what movies and the other mass media do-it provided an enjoyable and temporary escape from reality.

           [For those who care, the winners of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay was Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris. The winners of the Best Adapted Screenplay were Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash for The Descendants. In other news, Dr. Brasch was recently named a finalist in the USA Book News competition for Before the First Snow, and is a nominee for both the Eric Hoffer and Benjamin Franklin awards for literary excellence.]

 

News & Notes February 28, 2011

Today is the final day of AdultBasic.  Tomorrow 42,000 Pennsylvanians will awaken to a life with no basic health care coverage thanks to Gov. Corbett.  Democrats offered to trim legislative budgets or use their surplus to fund the program to no avail.  ABC used to be paid for by the Blues with excess revenues.  The PA Blues are sitting on billions in retained profits but have no cash to maintain this vital program?  Perhaps it is time to revisit their non profit status.

The Oscars were last night which explains why I was late getting going this morning.  The snorefest began with a neat dream sequence for hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway.  She was refreshing and made few errors while he was resplendent in white tights during the opening number then seemed stoned the remainder of the night.  The event dragged on and on and on.  Why couldn’t they have found real singers?  I actually saw The King’s Speech and thought it wonderful.  Kudos to Colin Firth who was nominated last year for the film A Single Man.

Gov. Scott Walker failed to listen to the thousands who protested at all fifty state capitols Saturday and ordered his Capitol building emptied last night.  Gov. Walker, that is the people’s Capitol, not yours.  Protesters remained in their building.  Perhaps we need a giant rally this weekend in DC.  Here is a 92 year old standing up for Wisconsin at Saturday’s rally in Harrisburg:

Let’s remember, it wasn’t public workers or pensions which created the deficits but failed Republican policies.  Dick Cheney infamously said “deficits don’t matter.”  They do but where were all these Tea baggers when George W. Bush doubled our national debt in eight years?  His tax cuts for the rich, two unpaid for wars and recession are what created the deficits.  Where were these morons then?

Be careful if you have a miscarriage in Georgia.  A new bill in the GOP’s war on women would make that a capital offense.

Treasurer Rob McCord is touting how much unclaimed property has been returned to the people.  Funny, I’ve had a claim in for over two years and his Department won’t even respond.

Another gas well exploded late last week near the Ohio border.  Fracking fluid in storage facilities blew up.  This is what we’re injecting into our drinking water and rivers. The New York Times reveals just how much fracking fluid is being used to pollute our waterways.

The hacker group Anonymous has taken down Americans For Prosperity, the Koch brother’s astroturf group supporting the Tea Party.