There is something happening in the world that I don't quite understand. We have always had gossip rags and there have always been some teenaged girls and housewives who have become obsessed with knowing exactly where some often-divorced pop singer celebrated her twenty-eighth birthday or bought her newest boobies.
It is deliciously easy to ridicule those who gobble up US, InStyle and People and actually vote to weigh in on who looks better in a Bagley Mischka gown, Tori Spelling or Sarah Jessica Parker (86% say Sara Jessica Parker by the way).
I am writing this on a JetBlue flight back from Long Beach to JFK and was prepared to say that our freakish obsessions with Jennifer Anniston's rhinoplasty and where and how Anna Nicole Smith's corpse is decomposing was actually a good thing. Caring about others, whether they fell down a well or their ex-boyfriend sold a video of them giving a blowjob, is still thinking about somebody other than yourself.
Then I saw, on the little screen on the back of the seat in front or me, ET's special report on Anna Nicole. ET bragged about their exclusive interview with the woman, Anna Nicole's friend, who actually found the corpse. They had her re-enter the hotel room while "Re-enactment" flashed on the screen. They had her walk over to the bed where there was a long lump under the sheets. She pulled back the sheet to reveal a brunette dummy, the kind I got certified for CPR on in high school, and the woman tried to shake it back to life.
What can we make of a society that does such things? I remember studying about the Roman Empire and being taught that the reason the Goths, Visigoths and Vandals strode in and wiped out one of the most sophisticated cultures the world had ever known was because the Romans had devolved into a society based upon orgies and bulimia.
I'm making a list of the cultural markers that will define the beginning of our end. If you have any good ones, I'd love to hear them. Many of us have already pegged Bush as a modern-day Nero.
(P.S. In an earlier post I had referred to Roman vomitoria and had, since I was a kid, believed they were Roman rooms set aside for purging. Readers informed me otherwise. Vomitoria were simply the exits of a stadium. Thanks.)