Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lindsay Lohan And Nicole Ritchie Talk Kabbalah

It was 4:00 am on Sunday and the music was pounding on the other side of the bathroom door that was guarded by two private security employees of the R&R Club on West 14th Street in Manhattan. Lindsay Lohan was donning a short pink dress and dark grey high heels, her hair was brown, parted in the middle, with gentle curls that ran to below her shoulders. Her legs were crossed and she was holding a pina colada as she leaned against one of the toilet stall partitions. A simple red Kabbalah bracelet was on the wrist that held her heavily spiked drink.

On her knees with her face in the toilet was Nicole Ritchie. Lindsay was looking down at Nicole's ping pong ball butt that was supported by toothpick legs. Nicole's flat shoes were hanging off her heels as she wretched into the toilet. Lindsay took a sip of her pina colada.

"You were really good on Saturday Night Live," said Nicole into the toilet bowl, which gave her remark a boomy quality.

"You finished?" asked Lindsay.

Nicole flushed the toilet and pulled her head out from the bowl and sat on the floor, her back against the steel stall partition. Her tight black dress followed the line of her pencil stick body that was not much wider than Nicole's neck. On such a slender frame, Nicole's head seemed enormous, and her eyes looked too large. She had an 18-karat solid-gold lighter in her hand that she kept flicking on and off, the small thin flame from the lighter rose and fell with each flick.

"I think it is all out," said Nicole.

"If you are going to drink, Nikki, you might as well let it stay in you," said Lindsay.

"Alcohol has lots of calories plus its poison. Can I have a cig?" said Nicole.

Lindsay pulled a pack of Marlboro Lights out of a hidden pocket on the side of her dress and flipped Nicole a cigarette. Nicole placed the Marlboro in her mouth and lit it with the gold lighter. She took a deep breath.

"I feel better now," said Nicole.

"You going to come to the Kabbalah class with me?" asked Lindsay.

"I've done the Kabbalah thing," said Nicole.

"No you haven't. You just think you have. You haven't done Kabbalah unless you have changed your behavior," said Lindsay.

"Oh, and you've changed your behavior?" said Nicole.

"Ah, yeah. I don't have my head in a toilet bowl, Nikki, now do I" said Lindsay.

"That's all I have to do to lead a Kabbalah life? Not throw up a drink when I drink too much?" said Nicole.

Lindsay got a wiff of Nicole's tobacco. She jostled out a cigarette from the pack she held in her hand and took it out with her mouth. Lindsay placed the pack of Marlboros back into her hidden dress pocket and knelt down. Nicole lit Lindsay's cigarette with her solid gold lighter. Lindsay breathed in deep and let the smoke linger in her lungs as she stood again. She removed the cigarette from her mouth and let out a plume of smoke above Nicole's head. Lindsay took another sip of her pina colada.

"The Kabbalah requires a whole new way of thinking, of living, Nikki," said Lindsay as she took another deep drag on her Marlboro.

Nicole stood up onto her stick legs and brushed off ashes that had fallen on her black dress, her cigarette dangling from her mouth. Nicole shook her hair out of her eyes. The cigarette had burned down to its filter, so Nicole dropped it into the toilet bowl.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Marilyn Monroe Decides What To Do With Her Body

Marilyn Monroe sat in a leather-backed chair in the center of a long conference table made of polished maple. Her position was lazy, sitting back, somewhat lumped over. Her hair was long and bleached blond with brown roots showing from her lack of attention. She was wearing a black wool coat with large round black buttons over a yellow blouse that was a bit too tight for her bust. Marilyn was huddled in her coat, still feeling the cold wet weather of January in New York City. It was 1961, and the new decade was dark and cold to her. So dark that it prompted Marilyn to come to her lawyer's office and sign the last will and testament that she had been advised to execute a few years ago but never thought it necessary.

Opposite Marilyn sat her lawyer and two witnesses. This was a hastily called meeting. The witnesses were called in the morning and advised to be at the office at two sharp. Marilyn actually showed up at noon, early for an appointment, which was atypical for her. She had slept on the couch in the lawyer's office for an hour when she arrived, and then paced back and forth in the conference room where they were now. She ran out briefly without telling anyone why, and then returned at two, looking haggard and cold, the state she was in now as she sat opposite the three men.

"Here is a copy of your proposed last will and testament," said the lawyer.

The lawyer placed a blue-backed document on legal-sized paper in front of Marilyn, turning it on the polished table to face her. Marilyn glanced at the document without adjusting her position in the chair. Her eyes fell on the document and the blank dead stare she brought with her to the lawyer's office morphed into a serene interest in the document. She was not really reading it, she did not touch it, and she certainly did not fully understand it, but Marilyn was very much entranced with the notion that these white papers with black letters had something to do with her future death.

Marilyn was on a wine bender the last few days. The election of Jack Kennedy had placed a cloud over her life. JFK was to be inaugurated in a week or so as President of the United States, but his election created a distance between Marilyn and him. Marilyn and JFK had shared the same bed on several occasions, the meeting each time arranged by Jack's younger brother, Robert. Often this occurred in Las Vegas, once in Chicago, once in Miami. Marilyn enjoyed Jack's company. He was in constant physical pain, but always optimistic. Marilyn felt she was in constant pain as well, but not of the physical kind, and her optimism was waning.

Marilyn was torn between Kennedys. With all the running around and scheduling arrangements that Robert Kennedy had made on behalf of his brother, Marilyn and Robert had grown close. Robert was healthier than Jack and was more tender than Jack who often only seemed interested in the sex. Jack was a taker. Robert was a giver, sort of. His Catholicism was a check on his generosity. Like so many men, Robert desired Marilyn, but their one time in bed was torture for him. He made love, but couldn’t look at Marilyn during the act. Robert seemed honest and sweet and smart, and appeared to truly care. But it was appearances, in the end, that defined him with Marilyn. That became crystal clear with Robert Kennedy’s phone call last week when he advised that things would have to change. I mean, afterall, Robert Kennedy’s brother was now president, and he could not risk the fallout from contact with a Hollywood movie star. Two brothers, Jack who would have Marilyn without care or thought, the other, Robert, who would have Marilyn with too much care and too much thought. Both Kennedys willing to take from Marilyn, and ultimately both willing to dump her. Marilyn was so tired of being groped and tossed away. That is what she felt today. Tired. Sad. Drained. Left behind. Would this continue? Could she take back control of herself, of the thing that everyone wanted?

Marilyn Monroe felt lost, unloved, used and abused. If there was not a man waiting for her at the end of the day, she looked forward to wine or pharmaceuticals. It was either-or for her. Occasionally she would call her mentor, Lee Strasberg, but lately this was not producing any benefits. Lee was imposing some kind of professional distance between the two of them, and she could not help think that Lee was displeased with her acting work. Marilyn had dredged the deepest corners of her past for Lee, for the acting work, but Lee never seemed entirely satisfied. She obsessed about her acting so much, that it sometimes felt like her entire life had become about the Method, staying raw, with emotional blisters oozing from moment to moment. Lee had given her the keys to turning it on, but she did not know how to turn it off.

"You understand the terms of your will?" asked the lawyer.

Waking up in the morning was complicated for Marilyn, how could a legal document be understandable. She was feeling very vulnerable. She could not bring herself to reading the will.
"So, I see all these names here," said Marilyn. At this point she reached out and flipped the pages of the will with her left hand, looking at the names of the people Marilyn had decided to leave things to, each name typed in all capital letters. There they all were, the names, Bernice Miracle, May Reis, Norman and Hedda Rosten, Patricia Rosten, Lee Strasberg, her mother Gladys Baker, Michael Chekhov's wife and Marilyn's psychotherapist, Marianne Kris. All the names. All the people who were going to take from her. Of course, they were not taking, she was giving. But that is not how she perceived it at that moment. Everyone was taking.

Marilyn thought of Joe. That's Joe DiMaggio. Joe had a temper. Her marriage to him lasted less than a year because of his temper. But he had changed lately. Joe had seen a therapist and was learning to control his rage. Joe was the first man ever to take steps to make himself a better person for her, for Marilyn. And he truly cared.

Joe's name was not in the last will and testament on the conference table. Joe had money. And Joe told her to do the right thing and take care of the people who needed it. That was Joe. Bottom line, always thinking of her. Marilyn thought maybe Joe DiMaggio was the only man whoever touched her with hands of true love, with compassion, with tenderness, who saw her body as part of Marilyn’s essence, not an object to fawn over or to use and manipulate. Marilyn thought of her body. She looked at her hands and ran them up her arms as if she were warming herself.

"You should read it carefully before you sign," said the lawyer.

"I am leaving my personal effects and my clothing to Lee, Lee Strasberg," said Marilyn.

"Yes," said the lawyer.

"Personal effects being?" asked Marilyn.

"Your things. Anything you own that is not real estate or money or securities," said the lawyer.

"So Lee gets everything but the money?" asked Marilyn.

"Well, Lee is getting your personal effects and clothing. By the way, why did you ask me to list clothing specifically as something to give Mr. Strasberg?" asked the lawyer.

"He was always telling me how to dress. He was always making suggestions, trying to help me, I don't know, to make me pretty, cute. He told me clothes are important. The right clothes are things he thought would be good for my career. He would buy me stuff too. So I thought I would give it all to him. Maybe that's stupid. Is that stupid?" said Marilyn.

"No. But you also mention Mr. Strasberg in the residual clause?" said the lawyer.

"The what?" asked Marilyn.

"Mr. Strasberg gets anything and everything else that you neglected to mention in your will," said the lawyer.

"Oh," said Marilyn to herself. "But I have nothing else," said Marilyn. She touched the will as she said this and noticed her hands again. She had always liked her hands. They were not small, but were thin and strong. She had always felt weak and vulnerable, but her hands reminded her that she could be strong. A thought occurred to her.

"Who takes my body after I die?" asked Marilyn.

Marilyn Monroe's question about who takes her body after she dies struck the lawyer as bizarre. It was not an ownership issue, or he didn't think so.

"Why do you ask?" asked the lawyer.

“You said Lee gets everything left over, the residual clause; he gets everything that is not mentioned in the will. Who gets my body? Who gets my body after I die?” asked Marilyn.

"Who do you want to get it, your body, Miss Monroe?" asked the lawyer, thinking he would play along with the line of thought. The lawyer felt a bit mischievous.

"Do I give it to someone? Do I give my body to someone?" asked Marilyn.

"The typical provision is that you direct your executor to bury you, possibly in a particular burial plot, or you can direct your executor to cremate you," said the lawyer.

"So no one gets my body? My body becomes free from people wanting it, grabbing it, taking it, stealing it, groping it? My body and me, me, finally becomes free from all these people who will take it anytime they want?" said Marilyn.

The question was awkward. The lawyer now regretted encouraging this. In addition, Marilyn seemed like she was losing touch with the reality of the moment, and she did not grasp the unseemliness of her inquiries. The lawyer suppressed thoughts of Marilyn’s body and tried to stick with the law.
"As a technical matter, no one takes ownership of your body. But possession is nine tenths of ownership. So if you die from suspicious circumstances, or circumstances that require the medical examiner to get involved, he would take possession of your body to make a medical determination of death," said the lawyer.

"How do I stop that?" asked Marilyn.

"You can't. But there is no reason to believe that your death will be anything but normal. Miss Monroe, in the legal sense, there is no title to your body, like you would have title to an animal. Title in humans ended with slavery," said the lawyer.

"You mean I do not own my body? I do not own me?" asked Marilyn.

"In the sense that you and I think about owning our bodies, yes, you do. But that way of looking at it evaporates when you die. The disposal of human remains is governed by law," said the lawyer.

"But it is not just my body. It is me. Who will own me?" asked Marilyn.

The lawyer did not know what she was specifically referring to. And he was beginning to conclude that she was a little loopy from drugs or lack of sleep. Marilyn did not look well, and he thought it best to end this discussion.

"No one will own you. You will die with your death, and your body will be dealt with in accordance with statutory law," said the lawyer.

“But the will does not say that,” said Marilyn.

“Wills do not dispose of bodies, Miss Monroe. If you would like, I can express your wishes for a burial or cremation?’ said the lawyer.

"I don’t want to think about that. I just…I just do not want anyone to use me. I don't want anyone to use me or my body. I don't want anyone to use me or my body, you promise me that," said Marilyn.
The two witnesses at the conference table looked at each other and at the lawyer. This was weird. Marilyn was on the verge of tears, and they did not wish to have a scene.

"I can promise you Marilyn that you and your body will not be anyone's property after your death," said the lawyer.

Marilyn thought of Joe DiMaggio again. If anyone could have her, it would be him. He was really the only one she trusted. The thought was brief, though. She was too scared to even think of the matter. Afterall, what would Joe do with her after she died.

"Where do I sign?" asked Marilyn.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jake Gyllenhaal In Search Of A Tough Guy

It was a hot Spring day in Los Angeles. The still air for the past three days had left a purple haze that floated above the basin. Jake Gyllenhaal was sitting in a comfortable chair looking at the palms and other desert flora that peppered the view he had from the top floor of 9830 Wilshire Boulevard, the offices of Creative Artists Agency. Kevin Huvane sat behind his polished mahogany desk that was supported by brushed nickel posts. An LCD monitor with keyboard sat to Huvane's left, and a multi-buttoned large office telephone sat to his right. In front of Huvane on the desk was a pile of four scripts. Huvane was watching Jake who seemed to be lost in the haze outside the large floor-to-ceiling window that surrounded Huvane's corner office.

Jake was in tattered jeans with a white lose button-down long-sleeve shirt. Huvane was wearing a non-descript suit without tie, a dark blue shirt with open collar. Huvane was tapping a red Sharpie marker on the desk.

"You have to dig yourself out of this one, Jake," said Huvane.

"So what is there? On your desk?" asked Jake.

"Four very well-written scripts that all have gay themes. One of which is set out West, with horses, no less," said Huvane.

"So put out more requests," said Jake.

"Jake, I have put out more than two dozen requests for scripts. It's getting embarrassing already. The studios see you as a gay cowboy, and they can't seem to get it out of their heads," said Huvane.

"So fuck the studios. Find an independent script. Low budget. I'll work for scale," said Jake.

"May I suggest you consider this one," said Huvane as he picks up the top script from the pile. "It's entitled 'Murder Undone.' A Universal script. Oliver Stone is attached," said Huvane.

"What's it about?" asked Jake.

"I think you should read it," said Huvane.

"Just tell me what it's about," said Jake.

"It's about a man who attempts to undo the murder he committed," said Huvane.

"Undo a murder? How does he do that?" asked Jake.

"It's a mystery suspense thing where this guy, a very tough guy, gets another man to assume the identity of the murder victim thereby," said Huvane.

"Yeah. OK. Then what?" asked Jake.

"Well, it is very psychological and dark. I think it will help undo the perception the studios have of you at the moment," said Huvane.

"You are not giving me the story. What's the story? What's dark and psychological about it?" asked Jake.

"OK, I will just say it. The main character, the role you are being offered, murders his lover?"
"A man, right?" asked Jake cutting off Huvane.

"Yes. A man. So then this character, trolls the bars looking for some lost soul to assume the identity of his former lover. He does this somewhat successfully, but then falls in love with this new guy, and ends up murdering him too. And the cycle starts all over again. Very dark," said Huvane.

"I don't know. Jeez, I did Jarhead for chrissake. I was wearing an Army uniform. Doesn’t that count for anything?” asked Jake.

"Jarhead was not nominated. Jarhead did not have the same level of press. Jarhead is history. Look, Murder Undone takes place in an urban environment, not the West. They will give you any wardrobe option you want, so you can dress casually urban or even like a slob if you want," said Huvane.

"What's he do? For a living?" asked Jake.

"It's not clear from the script, but let me remind you what you do for a living. Act. You act, and they are offering nine million to you to act in this film," said Huvane.

"Nine million," said Jake to himself.

"Nine million," said Huvane.

"Is there a sex scene? Because I am not doing a sex scene," said Jake.

"There is one sex scene, and it is the scene that sold Stone on the script," said Huvane. "But, it is a violent sex scene, not some gentle kissy huggy thing like in Brokeback. It's a tough sex scene. Tough is what you need, and it will be the first step out the door of this little spot you are in," said Huvane.

“How about we make the murder victims women. Same story, just my guy is straight?” asked Jake.

“Went down that road with Universal. Oliver Stone likes the gay theme. It’s Stone’s movie,” said Huvane.

"Can't we keep looking?" asked Jake.

"Jake, listen to me. Universal will pay you nine million dollars to help you evolve your career. Consider it a gift. A big gift. You help Universal, you help Oliver Stone, and you help yourself. Everyone is happy. And I promise you the next film after this one will not have a gay theme," said Huvane.

"I don't mind gay themed movies. I am not some homophobe, Kevin," said Jake.

"Of course you are not," said Huvane.

"But this is my career. I want variety in my work. It is about my work," said Jake.

'Yes. Of course. Here's the script," said Huvane as he offers it to Jake, who takes the script and places it on his lap.

"Find something that Cruise would do. That should be my next move after this one," said Jake.

"You want to be the next Tom Cruise?" asked Huvane.

"You know what I mean. Like Mission Impossible Four. Isn't he getting tired of doing those movies?" asked Jake.

"It all depends on how Three does," said Huvane.

Jake looks down at the script on his lap. "Tough guy. Good. Nine million. Good. I'll read it," said Jake.

"You'll do it," said Huvane, who caught himself and then smiled.

"Thanks, Kevin. Thanks for helping," said Jake.

"Think of it this way. You are taking in nine million. That means you are a tough guy, and that is how Hollywood will see it," said Huvane.

"Money talks," said Jake.

"Money defines," said Huvane.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Iranian Uranium: It's In The Koran

The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wore a white shirt, open collar, grey blazer and grey pants. His eyes sparkled and his smile was broad. He held in his right hand an aluminum cylinder, a replica of the cylinders Iran had used to process enriched uranium. Mahmoud was holding it out in front of him, examining it, watching the shimmering reflection of the late afternoon golden sunlight that streamed through the large open window.

Mahmoud was in the office of a high level and respected Shiite cleric. The Cleric was seated behind a large oak ornate desk which was burdened with papers, and several copies of the Koran, as well as a Dell computer with a 17-inch LCD monitor. One copy of the Koran was open in front of the Cleric.
"There is no mention of nuclear energy in the Koran," said the Cleric.

"What about nuclear bombs?" asked Mahmoud.

"There are references to a time of doom, a time of destruction, but nothing specific to a bomb, much less a nuclear bomb," said the Cleric.

"There has to be a reason why our great Nation of Iran, the home of the Shia, the true bearers of truth of the Prophet Muhammad, have come upon this enormous power," said Mahmoud as he held up the aluminum cylinder.

"Pakistan is filled with Sunni scum who have developed several nuclear weapons before our Great Nation of Iran. Given that, I do not think such matters are divinely inspired or predicted," said the Cleric. "And consider our Fatwa, Mahmoud," said the Cleric.

"The Fatwa is that Islam is not to use a nuclear weapon, but I think it can be read to mean that we are not to use a nuclear weapon for aggression. We can certainly use it for defensive purposes," said Mahmoud.

"That would require clarification," said the Cleric.

"Clarification is not necessary. It would only tie my hands. Let me proceed with my interpretation. If clarification becomes necessary, then you and the Council can so decide," said Mahmoud. "But let me point out that my use of the word 'defensive' is broad. Defense in anticipation of attack, either against our Great Nation or our Great Religion, would be permitted," said Mahmoud, somewhat fishing for tacit support.

"I have no current opinion on that matter. But I do not necessarily disagree," said the Cleric.
Mahmoud was happy. He had gotten some wiggle room. He had gotten what he wanted. But he still was hoping for more.

'I think you should rethink the power of what I hold in my hand, what this means to us, to the Shia,' said Mahmoud as he waved the aluminum cylinder. "I believe in my heart that the Koran suggests this awesome power, I believe that the Koran has given this power to us, to the Iranians, so that we can once and forever prove to the Sunni scum and to the world that the Shia are the rightful heirs to the Prophet Muhammad. This nuclear power is something to worship, it is something to kneel before, pray to. This power makes Mecca irrelevant. Here, to Iran, is where the Haj should be, not in the House of Saud. This power has been given to us by the Prophet. It is a gift from Allah," said Mahmoud.

The Cleric adjusted himself in the chair. He felt uncomfortable with the President's passion and obsession with uranium and nuclear power. But the President had the nation's ear, indeed, the world was listening to this young President, and his power was growing daily. Now with the bomb at the end of Mahmoud's rainbow, Mahmoud felt even more emboldened.

'There are some Koranic verses that might be suggestive of the hidden power of nature,' said the Cleric.

'Good. Good. Find them for me,' said Mahmoud as he placed the cylinder on the Cleric's desk. 'That beautiful aluminum cylinder is for you to ponder, it inspires, and it will assist you in your research,' said Mahmoud as he turned and walked out of the room.

The Cleric touched the aluminum cylinder. A breeze from the open window blew in and turned a page in the open Koran that sat in front of the Cleric. The Cleric picked up the aluminum cylinder and placed it on the Koran to hold the Holy Book open to the page he had been reading. The hidden power of nature. Iranian Uranium. It sounds right. Maybe there is something there.

Senator George Clooney Interrogates Nick Denton

The Senate Chamber was filled to the brim, every available four-square foot space of carpet was burdened with a human being, from reporters to congressional aides to college students to the lucky tourist who happened to sneak in. There were a good dozen tripods hoisting video cameras, as well as thrice that number of photographers wielding still cameras with protruding white zoom lenses. The rows of seats behind the long witness table were buzzing with chatter as the senators took their places on the dais, the center being chaired by Senator George Clooney.

At the witness table sat Nick Denton. To his right was Hillary, Denton's attorney. Nick was nervous, but then how could one not be in the klieg lights of Washington and Hollywood simultaneously. Nick had spent years building a mini-empire of blogs and other internet watering holes, many of which relied on the support and participation of the public. Nick had a nose for good writing and for attracting insiders who were willing to open windows to social networks that had previously remained behind closed doors. Nick thrusted these no-names into the forefront, giving them an audience and a platform and a mission, ranging from politics to celebrities to gadgets. If there was a demographic, Nick targeted it, staffed it, financed it on the cheap, and built a web audience slowly, steadily, until the site earned money. Nick had accumulated enough profitable websites to generate him a sizeable revenue stream, making him something of a Silicon Valley darling, though on the East Coast thousands of miles from the googlers and yahoos.

With success comes media attention, and although Nick liked people to know about him, he did not savor the spotlight. He preferred controlling the spotlight. Not today. Today the spotlight handles were firmly in Senator Clooney's grip.

"This is not fun, not even a little," whispered Nick to Hillary as he examined Senator George Clooney organizing a pile of papers and chatting with a senatorial aide. It irritated Nick that Clooney looked as good in his fifties as he did in his forties. This was particularly so because Nick had spent the last decade sitting too much in a chair. He carried a little too much weight, and he probably looked dreadful compared to the dashing Senator who had cultivated a love with the camera during his two decades as an actor.

"Witch hunts are never fun," said Hillary, a 38-year old blond beauty from a midtown Manhattan law firm that spent several years early in her career in Washington, DC. She knew the ropes down here in the Beltway, but her primary asset, Nick Denton sometimes thought, were her looks. Plus her raspy voice no doubt caused by a lifelong weekend indulgence with marijuana. Nick was of two minds about his attorney. The drug use was cool, sort of, because she so effortlessly was able to weave weed into her busy legal life. But then, he couldn't help think that she had a lose screw somewhere, a hole in her brain that was burned out. Hillary's parents were both former hippies, and the lifestyle apparently had been passed down from one generation to the next in Hillary's case.

Nick jumped at the sound of wood hitting wood. Senator Clooney had slammed the gavel down on the block that sat on the counter.

"Let me welcome Nicholas Denton to the Hill, and I can speak on behalf of my colleagues that we all thank you for agreeing to appear before the Senate Committee on the Preservation of Privacy," said Senator Clooney with a charismatic smile.

Nick nodded his head, and with each nod a sick pain gurgled in his stomach. Hillary patted the back of Nick's right hand with her left hand to comfort Nick. It was not doing any good. It only made him feel more self conscious, thinking that Hillary heard Nick's rumbling gastrointestinal tract.

"Mr. Denton, do you have an opening statement?" asked Senator Clooney.

"No, sir, I have no opening statement," said Nick Denton. The second Nick said 'sir' he winced. He was calling this guy 'sir' when virtually all of his web properties had for years targeted George Clooney as a fat mouth Hollywood hunk. Now he was saying 'sir' to this guy. Clooney had managed to turn everything around and on its head. A celebrity cannot change the law or the discussion, but a politician can.

"You know, Mr. Denton, many Americans, if not all Americans, are very concerned with the growing intrusion the internet is having on their personal lives," said Mr. Clooney. "And you have one particular internet business which has become what all of us fear the most, which is big brother watching our every move. And we all feared it was the government who was going to be big brother, as it has in some cases. But with your ventures, it is big business that has assumed this role," said Senator Clooney.

"May I speak," said Nick.

"Well, I have not finished, but certainly, you may respond," said Clooney.

"I am hardly a big business. My various companies have never gone public, and we manage our properties on limited budgets, we employ no lobbyists, and we have no deep pockets," said Nick. His hands were shaking every so slightly.

"Is it not true that your company gizmodo.com was purchased by the News Corporation for an undisclosed amount of money?' asked Clooney.

"Yes," said Nick.

"Is it not true that your company kotaku.com was purchased by the Sony Corporation?" asked Clooney.

"Yes," said Nick.

"Is it not true that your company fleshbot.com was purchased by Playboy Enterprises?" asked Clooney.
"Yes," said Nick.

"It is not true that your company jalopnik.com was purchased by the Toyota Corporation?" asked Clooney.

"Yes," said Nick.

"So it is fair to say that your business plan is to create properties that you build and then sell them to large corporations for huge sums of money, avoiding the oversight that going public would subject you to. You have set yourself up so you can avoid any scrutiny, to protect your own privacy at the expense of others, haven't you Mr. Denton," asked Senator Clooney.

Damn, this guy is good. "Well, sir, my plan is not to avoid scrutiny. My business plan is to build businesses and then, possibly, sell them at a profit," said Nick. He was sorry he used the word 'profit' thinking that would not play well on camera.

"Let's talk about your website Gawker Stalker. Gawker Stalker provides the tools to stalk the comings and goings of private individuals, and then posting this information publicly at the Gawker Stalker website on a map for all to see. The very purpose of this website is to intrude on people's privacy, a privacy that forms the foundation of various rights in our Constitution, is that not right?" asked Clooney who was no longer smiling.

"Actually, sir, it is only meant to be a clearinghouse of the location of celebrities, not private individiuals," said Nick.

"Mr. Denton, don't think you can minimize the intrusive nature, don't think you can dismiss the assault on the public's privacy perpetrated by Gawker Stalker by telling this Committee that all you care about are celebrities," said Clooney.

"Sir, I hardly think that Gawker Stalker would have survived as a business model if it was merely announcing to the world where my Aunt Sadie is buying her groceries," said Nick. The Senate Chamber laughed. This made Nick feel good.

"Do you have an Aunt Sadie, Mr. Denton?" asked Clooney, taking back control of the room.
Damn. Nick thought he could get away with that one. He did not have an Aunt Sadie. Clooney had done his homework. "Well, I was using Aunt Sadie to generically refer to anyone's Aunt, sir," said Nick.

"May I remind you sir that even though you are not under oath, you stand before the American people, and this hallowed Senate Chamber stands for the truth and not a joke for your Manhattan internet buddies, Mr. Denton," said Clooney with a bit of anger in his voice.

"Yes, sir, sorry," said Nick.

"And may I ask you something, Mr. Denton? Is an American citizen who happens to have some public status and recognition, big or small, any less worthy of constitutional protection than the generic Aunt you refer to? Is an actor, one who toils for years earning no money but restaurant tips, one who studies their craft day in and day out, one who works all their lives to entertain and fill your life with joy and entertainment, is that actor now no longer in possession of their private life, is that actor now merely the grist on which you plow your trade filling your pockets with bucket loads of big corporate money? Tell me that, Mr. Denton? Tell me how you can sleep at night knowing that your company Gawker Stalker is hounding and stalking pregnant movies stars who only seek a little pre-natal privacy? Tell America how you can sleep at night knowing your company Gawker Stalker causes pain and misery and fear among the artistic community, the very community of artists, actors and musicians that work their lives to entertain and provoke you? Tell America that, sir," said Senator George Clooney.

Unlike most Senators, Senator George Clooney made that little speech without once looking down at a script. Clooney had it memorized. Nick refused to believe Clooney made it up on the spot. Nick refused to believe Clooney was improvising, even though that's what actors do at times. Clooney going on and on about Gawker Stalker in the Senate Chamber on national television; it was surreal. I mean, afterall, Gawker Stalker was started almost as a goof over at Gawker Media, Nick Denton's parent company that had given birth to all his blogs and internet properties. When Google gave everyone the means to use its mapping service, hundreds of websites spawned overnight mapping everything from real estate to impromptu meetings and political demonstrations. All Nick thought of mapping were celebrities. And with cell phone cameras and on the spot internet access, why not map the location of a celebrity instantaneously. Nick had thought it cute, at first. But Nick had no idea how it would take off, how Gawker Stalker was to become one of the hottest websites. And clearly it had pissed some people off. But it never mattered pissing a celebrity off. In fact, it was good to piss celebrities off. Celebrities who complained always seemed so silly and defensive. The celebrities who ignored the tabloid press maintained some dignity. The celebrities complained were babies. But now there was the Clooney option. Ignore it, or become a politician.

"Mr. Denton, would you like me to repeat the question?" asked Senator George Clooney.

"No, sir, I heard you," said Nick. Hillary, leaned over.

"The Senator has made his speech, and his friends in Hollywood are no doubt now satisfied. Remember not to get angry. Be the small businessman that you are, trying to make a buck, feeding your family," whispered Hillary in Nick's ear.

Small businessman? Well, maybe, compared to Gates and Jobs and the CEO of Exxon Mobil. But the millions have poured in over the last few years, and he did not think of himself as a small businessman, like the guy who owns the drugstore or the local coffee shop. Nick Denton was the master of a corner of the internet, a big corner, and he was anything but small. But he got what Hillary was saying. What irked Nick was that there was a larger issue here. And that larger issue was freedom of speech. But no one was talking about freedom of speech or the First Amendment. Clooney was on the bandwagon of privacy, the right to privacy, as if he was taking the pro-choice ride through Hollywood to save the asses of his phony and very rich actor buddies.

"Senator, I am a small businessman that is merely trying to exercise his rights under the First Amendment," said Nick.

Senator George Clooney's eyes went wide in shock, as if this statement came as a total surprise.
Hillary placed her hand over the microphone and clearly indicated to the panel of senators that she needed a consult.

"What are you doing?" whispered Hillary. "You know the agreement I worked out with Clooney's staff. No discussion of the First Amendment. No freedom of speech grandstanding. This is about privacy concerns. Clooney is a big supporter of the First Amendment and does not want to talk about it. OK? Are you hearing me?" whispered Hillary who was clearly upset. Nick knew why she was upset. When you work out a deal with a Senator of the United States Congress, you make certain your client sticks with the deal or else your career is ruined. Hillary would never again be able to walk the halls of Capital Hill as a power broker again. This was serious stuff.

"Yes, Hillary, I know. But maybe it is time to take a stand. Maybe there is a reason I am here? And maybe it is the First Amendment," whispered Nick back at Hillary.

"The reason you are here is because of me, Nick. Don't start thinking you have some higher calling. You are not Edward R. Murrow. This is not some Good Night and Good Luck thing here. This is a deal I worked out to save your ass and make Senator Clooney happy. Stick with the program," whispered Hillary harshly.

Nick turned toward Senator George Clooney, who was glaring at him. Stick with the program. Make the Senator happy. He won't get any legislation passed that affects Nick. So everyone gets what he wants. But something inside Nick told him that he would really not be able to sleep at night. Something told Nick that Clooney and Hillary could both kiss his ass. The hell with them. But then, money is money, his life was his life, and maybe it would be better to pick this fight on another ball field at another time.

All the video cameras were aimed at him. All the photographers were pointing their zoom lenses at him, clicking away, recording each second. What to do? Stick with the program? Maybe it was a matter of phrasing. Maybe he could somehow communicate that this was an early inning and not the bottom of the ninth. Maybe. Damn, he wished he had one of his writers with him.

"Senator Clooney, I apologize. I did not mean to change the subject. Afterall, today's topic is the right to privacy, not freedom of speech. And that is the issue I will address," said Nick. He was not totally happy. He thought the blogosphere will get it. Today's topic is Clooney's topic. But tomorrow's will be Nick's. He hoped. With the internet, you always had the last word, at least for a moment.

Kate Moss Teaches Naomi Campbell A Lesson

Kate Moss stood in the center of the gymnasium floor. The parallel bars were to her left, the uneven bars behind, the gymnastic horse to her right. She stood on a large red mat wearing black boxing shorts and a lose fitting sleeveless shirt. At the end of each arm, on each hand, Kate wore large black leather boxing gloves. To her left stood Stephanie.

"I need a cigarette," said Kate.

Stephanie pulls out a pack of Merit Ultra Lights from the canvas bag on the floor, together with a Bic lighter. She takes a cigarette out and offers it to Kate.

"How am I going to smoke with these gloves on. Put it in my mouth and light it," said Kate somewhat derisively.

"Oh, yes," said Stephanie as she placed the cigarette in the corner of Kate's mouth and lit it, whereupon Kate took a very deep breath, emitting the smoke out of the other corner of her mouth. She took another breath, and then another, sucking the cigarette down to almost its halfway point.

The gym was large, and there were a few curious employees of Cambridge University's Athletic Department standing back near the bleachers. A door opens and slams shut. In walks Naomi Campbell, alone, wearing blue boxing shorts and a tight red sleeveless shirt. She was barefoot, like Kate. Kate had the cigarette still in her mouth and Naomi walked up to her, face to face, on the mat. Naomi was holding a set of big red leather boxing gloves, which she proceeded to put on.
"You look stupid with that cigarette in your mouth," said Naomi.

Kate glances to Stephanie, who removes the cigarette. "Save it," said Kate. She looks back at Naomi. "Hey, I didn't know they made boxing gloves in a color. I like the red," said Kate as she admired the gloves.

"We are not here for fashion chat. We are here to toughen you up," said Naomi.

"Well, I am rehabilitating. So that is why I am curious about this program you have," said Kate.

"I didn't say it was a program. Did I say it was a program? This is just my way. I have my way of helping out frail desperate little nothings like you who get trashed by their lovers and who are in a downward spiral of self-destruction," said Naomi.

"OK," said Kate.

"It's about getting hit, like this,' said Naomi as she gently reached out her right arm and pecked Kate on the cheek. Kate's head snapped back, more so than Naomi thought it would.

"You got any muscles in your neck, girl?" said Naomi.

"You OK", said Stephanie to Kate.

"She's fine. You're fine, aren't you?" asked Naomi.

Kate stroked her cheek with her left boxing gloves. "Am I supposed to hit back," asked Kate.

"Thattagirl, you said it. Try," said Naomi.

Kate takes an anemic swing, missing Naomi’s face by several inches. Naomi responds with a hard swift left to Kate's right cheek sending Kate flying into the air flat on her back, lying on the red mat. Kate Moss's eyes rolled back into her head, and her skull shook with tremors. Her skinny arms were outstretched, tipped with her black leather boxing gloves, and her barefoot legs were twisted and tangled as only bones can do. She was unconscious, and Stephanie shreaked with horror as she watched Kate’s bony legs start to shake.

"Hey, what are you doing," asked Stephanie to Naomi Campbell as she rushed over to Kate Moss who's eyes were just emerging from being locked up into her lids. Stephanie leaned down over Kate who was blinking as if to clear her vision.

The shakes in Kate Moss’s legs had ceased, and it was good news that kate started to moan and spit up saliva that was oozing down from the corner of her mouth. Stephanie tapped Kate’s cheek and Kate’s eyes focused on Stephanie.

"You OK?" asked Stephanie as she cupped her hand under Kate's head.

"I think so" said Kate.

"This is ridiculous. We should just stop this right now. Naomi is a nutcase. She'll kill you," said Stephanie.

Kate starts to rise. "I'm OK. Really," said Kate.

Kate gets up.

"Okie dokie. Now you are learning. Now you are starting to feel what it is like to take a punch and get up and come back at me," said Naomi.

Kate is now on her feet. "I need the cigarette," Kate said to Stephanie, who placed the cigarette in her mouth. Kate took a deep inhale of smoke.

"Not a good thing. That is bullshit. That is a crutch. You should be coming at me. You've got to rely on you, not some bullshit crutch," said Naomi as she raised her fists and set herself to take a swing.

Kate had the cigarette in her mouth, her arms down at her sides, clearly not positioning to defend herself. She swayed a bit, still dizzy from the punch Naomi nailed on Kate's left cheek. Stephanie was cupping her hands almost entirely over her eyes, afraid to look.

"I'm going for you. And when I do, I will put you out, and you will form some scar tissue on your weak, limp character. I aim to build your character," said Naomi as she lunged forward with her right hand. At this very moment, Kate swayed unintentionally to her right and forward, and coughed and hacked real hard, accidentally but violently spitting, propelling the burning cigarette like a javelin, which landed on Naomi's left eye. Naomi fell back, grabbing her face.

"Ahh shit. Ahh shit. What did you do? What did you do?" screamed Naomi, who was now walking away from Kate. "Get me a medic. Hey, you fuckheads, don't just stand there, get me a medic," yelled Naomi at the Cambridge University employees who were still watching from the bleachers.
Kate was just now somewhat recovering from Naomi's blow to the head.

"What happened?" asked Kate.

"You spit your cigarette into Naomi's face," said Stephanie.

"I did? Jeez. That's ain't good," said Kate. "Give me another one," asked Kate.

"Maybe we should get out of here," said Stephanie.

"Naomi is right. I do feel a little tougher. Give me another one," insisted Kate.

Stephanie placed another cigarette into Kate's mouth and lit it for her. She inhaled, and let the smoke out through her nostrils.

"I feel stronger. Can you apologize to Naomi for me? We models need to stick up for each other," said Kate as she started to walk in a wobbly fashion off the red mat, almost trance like.

"Yeah. Sure," said Stephanie as she picked up the canvas bag. Stephanie moved quickly to Kate’s side and grabbed her arm to make certain Kate did not fall.

“It feels good to be on the road of rehabilitation,” said Kate.

“Yes, Kate. It’s a good road to be on,” said Stephanie.

“So that was my workout for today. Tonight I can relax a little,” said Kate as she inhaled and exhaled, inhaled and exhaled the light blue smoke of the Merit Ultra Light cigarette. “I hate these cigarettes. They have no punch. It’s like breathing air. Give me something that I can feel,” said Kate as she spit the Merit cigarette onto the gym floor.

Naomi Campbell Visits Consumers Union

Joe sat in his small office chair with a very tiny window that barely permitted the afternoon sunlight from warming his office on this cold wet April Spring day. He lived not far from the Consumers Union complex, a few miles east, outside the Yonkers, New York, city limits, but his ride in today was particularly uncomfortable when his boss called him on the cell phone and advised that he would be meeting with the woman who at that moment sat across from him. She was more gorgeous and more striking than even her best photos. She wore a leather bomber jacket over a white tank top, flowered skirt, and rhinestoned cowboy boots. Her legs were crossed, her foot air tapping, and she was chewing gum. Normally gum dumbed-down a beautiful woman, but not Naomi Campbell. Her long hair, clean look, and very sparkly eyes clearly reflected a very healthy lifestyle, and the gum chewing accentuated her large lips. Or so Joe was thinking when Naomi interrupted his reverie.

"I have an image problem," said Naomi.

"I wasn't aware," said Joe.

"You weren't aware? Give me a break. You live in a closet?” said Naomi.

"Well, this is a small office?" said Joe sincerely.

"You know who I am, right? I mean you fully know who I am?" asked Naomi sincerely.

"Yes. You are a model," said Joe.

"Model !! No. No. Super Celebrity. Super Spokesperson. Supremo Marketeer. I am at the pinnacle of what I do. You cannot go higher than me," said Naomi as she was checking an email on her Blackberry, which she held in her left hand.

"Yes. Of course," said Joe.

"But I have an image problem. I won't go into details. But I know how to deal with the image problem, which is merely a little bump in the golden road I travel on," said Naomi.

"OK," said Joe.

"And I need your organization, the Consumers whatever, to assist me," said Naomi.

"How can we help," asked Joe.

"Hey, listen, you think my involvement with your consumers thing is just going to be good for me? Let me correct that for you. It will mostly be good for you. I don't want an argument about it," said Naomi.
"No. No. I am sure it will be very beneficial," said Joe.

"I want to do some product testing. I want you to inaugurate the Naomi Campbell Product Test for Durability," said Naomi.

"Well, we have scientists and other highly trained individuals who establish our testing methods," said Joe.

Naomi took the gum out of her mouth and tossed it with perfect precision into the small wastebasket next to the wall, a good seven feet from where she sat.

"I knew you were going to say something stupid like that. You see this cell phone?" said Naomi as she held up a Nokia cell phone in her right hand.

"Yes," said Joe.

"This Nokia cell phone is no way as durable as this Blackberry," said Naomi.

"OK," said Joe. He had no idea where this was going, and was clueless why she was interested in product testing. Joe had a suspicion that he had missed out on some bit of cultural or celebrity news, a problem for someone who buys the newspaper JUST for the crossword puzzle.

"Nokia phones do not hold up when you crash them. The Blackberry not only works just fine after a good whack, but also there is barely a nick on it," said Naomi.

"Listen, Ms. Campbell—"

"Don't interrupt me. I know you think this is kookie given that my minor PR problem stems from my use of these products, but consider the fact that the media loves someone who makes fun of themselves, and this would be a perfect way for me to promote what the media does not know about me," said Naomi.

"Which is?" said Joe.

"A sense of humor. I have a wonderful sense of humor, and I do not like that you are questioning me about this, like you think I do not have a sense of humor," said Naomi as she glared at Joe, flipping her Nokia cell phone in the air.

"I am sure you have a sense of humor," said Joe.

Naomi stands, cell phone in right hand, Blackberry in left.

"Look, like why am I meeting with you. Who the hell are you? Who is your boss, like who runs this consumer thing?" Naomi was getting a little hot.

Joe could not help but notice Naomi's hair flying around as she yelled at him, her left arm outstretched, pointing the Blackberry at him. She was gorgeous, alright, but seemed to be very upset by something that alluded him.

"I can direct you to the Supervisor in my division if you'd like," said Joe.

"Division. I am only in a division here? Christ. I asked to meet with the one in charge. In the charge of the whole thing, not some division. I am not a division person, got that. My manager is going to hear about this screw-up."

Naomi turned and stormed out of the office, slamming shut the door behind her, her flowered skirt flying up revealing muscular thighs. What a woman, thought Joe. He decided that tomorrow morning he was going to buy the New York Post to see what he had missed. He glanced at the crossword puzzle in the New York Times. The clue for 42 down was 'Blackberry boxer.' Five letters. Could it be?

Naomi Campbell Visits Liza Minnelli

It is not easy for someone who is only five foot four inches tall to hit 250 pounds, but Liza May Minnelli stood on the scale barely able to see the three digital display numbers over her enormous girth. The display read 2-5-4. She thought for a second to remove her wool socks, the only item of clothing she was wearing at the moment, to lighten the load and get the number down, but the thought passed like the wind that she just let go into her Manhattan apartment bathroom.

"Woe, that's a real whopper," said Naomi Campbell, who was leaning against the bathroom door jam in cowboy boots, a black skirt and tank top holding a cell phone in left hand.

"Sorry," said Liza as she stepped off the scale.

"Hey, it's your apartment. You fart all you want," said Naomi. "Hey, girl, now don't turn away from the mirror. Face it. Take a good look at yourself," said Naomi sternly.

Liza had her left side turned toward the large mirror over the double sink pink marble counter. She peaked at her body. The white folds of cellulite-laden flesh from sixty years of neglect, or outright abuse, were just hanging abound her from chin to knee caps like a lumpy burlap sack of potatoes.

"Look at it. Look what you have let yourself become," said Naomi.

"Can we get on with this?" said Liza as she turned from the mirror toward Naomi. "I want to get dressed."

"Forget it. I want you to get in touch with your body. I want you to remain naked, and start to get acquainted with what you haul around everyday," said Naomi. "Go on, grab your belly. Grab it with your hands, like you were kneading dough. Do it and watch yourself in the mirror doing it," said Naomi.

Liza does as she is told, like she has most of her life. Strong-willed men and women have always been the prime movers in Liza's life, so she looked down and grabbed the large flabby tire pock-marked with dimples. She did this cautiously, without looking in the mirror.

"OK, you are not listening to me. Grab it. All of it," said Naomi.

"I am," said Liza meekly as she looked up at Naomi.

Naomi placed her cell phone down on the pink marble bathroom countertop to the left of Liza, pushed Liza's hands away and grabbed the mounds of fat that encircled Liza, hanging there like melting marshmallow.

"You see this. Look in the mirror as I am doing this. Look at this. Can you feel it? I bet you cannot even feel it, can you? The nerves probably don't even reach across your sacks of fat," said Naomi was kneading, grabbing, pulling, pushing, wrapping her arms around Liza, jiggling the fat, shaking it, cupping it in her hands.

As Naomi was doing this, getting lost in her activity, like a child with play dough, Liza looked up at the mirror. She watched Naomi, her tall thin somewhat muscular arms, her smooth skin. She felt the fat rumbling around her body. But it was almost as is the fat was anj oversized coat, not really attached to her. There was so much of it. Liza started to feel a pain in her chest, that rose into her throat. Her facial muscles quivered with fear and shame. Liza felt her eyes fill with tears, the bottom lid overflowing, and letting the tear drops roll down her cheeks. Naomi was manically shaking and rolling, uttering something that Liza could no longer hear.

That is when Liza spotted Naomi's cell phone sitting on the bathroom counter. A charge of electricity went through Liza. Not a good charge. She could not characterize it. It was just a jolt, as if a puppeteer was pulling on her left arm. Liza grabbed the cell phone and swung it at Naomi's face, hitting her hard in the cheek. Naomi Campbell fell back onto the floor, blood spurting from the side of her mouth. She was flat on her back, moaning in pain, holding her face.

"What the hell," Naomi said through a gurgle of pain.

Liza stood there, only in her socks, with Naomi's cell phone in hand. The phone started to ring. It was the National Anthem ring tone. Liza tossed Naomi's cell phone in the open toilet where the Anthem immediately terminated.

"I'll get dressed now," said Liza, as she walked over Naomi's body on the tiled bathroom floor.

Celebrities Envy Dead Tortoise

Adwaitya sat on a marble pedestal, about knee high, in one of the grassy fields in the Calcutta Zoo. There was a small crowd of people to see the dead carcass of the Aldabran tortoise that died within the last week. Adwaitya was 252 years old when he died. Records show that he was born in 1744. Adwaitya was large, as tortoises commonly are, and had been embalmed to prevent it from decomposing. It's head was jutting out of its huge brown shell, where it was supported by a small puffy white satin pillow.

Jack LaLanne was wearing black pants, and a black shirt, his hair died jet black and cropped short, but long enough to stand straight up. Jack had his hands together hanging low in front of him in a respectful pose. He was wearing sunglasses and standing alone.

"Jack, is that you?"

Jack turned to his right. "Yes. Hi. How long has it been, Burt?" asked Jack.

"A few years," said Burt Reynolds. "What the hell you doing way over here in India, for chrissake?"

"Paying my respects to the oldest living thing on earth," said Jack.

"Well, that turtle ain't alive no more," said Burt.

"Tortoise, Burt. It's a tortoise," said Jack.

"Yeah. Just had to see it. Look at it. It looks like any old tortoise. It certainly don't look three hundred years old," said Burt.

"252, Burt. It did not make it to 300," said Jack.

"What are you now, Jack?" asked Burt.

"92," said Jack.

"Wow. You got 22 years on me." said Burt.

'Yeah, well, don't expect much out of the next 22," said Jack.

"I'm feeling great," said Burt. "Hey, is that Madonna over there in those big ass sunglasses?" said Burt.
"I wouldn't know," said Jack.

"Yeah, it is. It's Madonna. Like what the hell. I thought I'd be the only famous person here," said Burt. "Jeepers creepers, look who's over there?" said Burt incredulously. "Is that really who I think it is? Jeez, this is becoming like the Academy Awards. And no news media. Tons of big stars and no news media. Is that really--"

"Yeah. That's who you think it is?" Said Jack

Burt Reynolds noticed that there were a few Indians in Hindu dress, or what he thought was Hindu clothing, looking at him. A child even pointed to him. Yep, they noticed. All around the world they noticed who was once the most popular movie star in the world, five years in a row.

The sun was bright, bearing down on the small crowd of people. Burt slipped out a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses from his lightweight Nike workout jacket. I mean afterall, if Madonna was going to stand among the Indians wearing shades, so was he. But what bothered him were the little Indian children gathering around Madonna, asking for her attention, which she occasionally gave. She seemed more interested in the damn dead tortoise than her worldwide fans.

Burt then glanced at the person who arrived covered in a black sheet wearing a wide-brimmed black sun hat, long black pants, white socks and black flat shoes. He was surrounded by a few other Arab-dressed men, and no one seemed to notice them. In fact, people seemed to shy away from the Muslims. But Burt knew who this was. Michael Jackson could not hide his identity for long.
"This is getting" weird, don't you think. I mean, what is Michael Jackson doing here," Burt said to Jack LaLanne who remained in his respectful pose.

"Probably wants to buy the tortoise's dead body. Maybe Madonna and him will start bidding on it," Jack said with a touch of disdain in his voice.

"They should ebay it," said Burt.

"Burt Reynolds, is that you?" said a woman to Burt's right. Burt turned.

"Faye?" said Burt.

Faye Dunaway was also wearing sunglasses, large ones like Madonna. Burt wondered why the older a woman got, the larger the sunglasses she preferred. Faye actually looked pretty good for being in her.
"What are you doing here?" asked Burt, wondering how old Faye was.

"Don't be an idiot, Burt. I am here for the same reason you are. To see what it looks like to be 250 years old," said Faye.

"Well, you have a long way to go to get to 250, Faye, ain't that right?" Burt was fishing.

"Not as long as you," said Faye. "Look, Burt, the tortoise has hair."

Burt turned and craned his head to get a better look. Damn, he thought. Little bits of hair jutted out of the dead tortoise's head. Very fine hair, but hair just the same.

"The tortoise has as much hair as you," said Faye.

Burt resisted raising his hand to adjust his hair-piece. Faye was a bitch and she knew how to push buttons. He wondered whether she was still good in bed.

"Where you staying?" asked Burt.
"Look at that, Madonna. And is that the freak, Michael Jackson, looking like an Arab woman?" asked Faye.
"Yeah. Where you staying?" asked Burt again.

"Jack LaLanne, is that you?" asked Faye.

"Yes. Hi," said Jack. Jack turned to acknowledge Faye Dunaway. Jack had worked hard to get to his 92 years intact and looking good, or good for 92, that is. Faye, though, was looking good because of surgery. It was obvious, facial skin pulled back tight, lips spread out, causing Faye to have a strange permanent smile. But her demeanor was confident, and she did not seem psychologically scarred by her aging vanity. Jack wondered whether his manic pursuit of health through exercise and good nutrition was any less vain than Burt's hair piece or Faye's plastic surgery. Jack got instantly uncomfortable standing there.

"I got to go. It was nice seeing you both," said Jack, as he turned on his heel and walked off.

"That was weird," said Faye. “He got all funny.”

"Where you staying?" asked Burt again.

"Look at that tortoise, Burt. That thing probably looked the same one hundred years ago. Hasn't changed in a hundred years, and you and I seem to be deteriorating faster than melting ice cream on a summer beach," said Faye as she stared at the tortoise.

"I'm staying in the Calcutta Hilton. You want to join me for dinner?" asked Burt.

"Did you see the documentary Calcutta Hilton? It's about young prostitutes," said Faye.

"No. There are prostitutes at my hotel?" said Burt as a fast wind to change dinner plans went through his brain.

"Madonna just left. Michael the freak is still here. Jack LaLanne left for god's sake. So what the hell are we still standing here for, Burt?" said Faye.

"Is that a yes on the dinner invite?" said Burt.

"You don't look bad for seventy," said Faye.

"You know I'm seventy?"

"I google everyone. I keep track of everyone's age. Madonna and Michael Jackson are both 48. There's something about approaching fifty that gets people to focus on how shitty they look," said Faye.
"You look great, Faye," said Burt.

"Fuck you, Burt. Where do you want to have dinner?" said Faye.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Denise Richards And Carmen Electra Discuss Charlie Sheen

Carmen Electra sat at a corner table at The Grill Restaurant in Los Angeles, far from the window where the afternoon sun washed the front tables with its hot smog-tinted light. The agents and power brokers from Century City and Wilshire Boulevard sat in the conspicuous tables chatting, playing with their Blackberries and Treos, while glancing over their shoulders to see who might be watching or not watching. Carmen at this moment preferred to stay out of the light because this is what she was instructed to do. She nursed a green tea and played with a bread stick, sucking its end but not taking a bite.

At the entrance to the restaurant, Denise Richards appeared in tight jeans, a black loose blouse and distressed leather boots that were tucked under the jeans. A green canvas shoulder bag hung on her left side, and she was in sunglasses, the kind that Lance Armstrong would wear in the Tour de France. Denise walked right through the restaurant, creating a little bit of a wake of head turns from the Blackberry wielders. Denise sat down in the back, out of the glow, opposite Carmen.

“Sorry I’m late,” said Denise.

“So why did you call me? What’s this big secret meeting you wanted, which ain’t so secret here at this place,” said Carmen.

“Carmen, I have to keep up appearances. I am cresting a wave here, and I am going to surf this for as long as I can. I have to appear like we are meeting secretly but still let everyone know about it. It is good that our secret meeting is not secret” said Denise.

“Well, I am not sure anyone saw me on the way in,” said Carmen.

“It doesn’t matter. They saw me. Besides, I am the one on the front pages, not you. I am the cover story,” said Denise.

“Denise, I am in a top grossing movie. You’re on the front pages because you’re getting divorced and you’re saying nasty things about Charlie. There’s a difference between getting attention for being a bitch and getting attention for one’s work,” said Carmen.

“Yeah, right, Carmen, like you made some major artistic contribution to Scary Move 4. Give me a break,” said Denise.

“At least I am in a big movie. And I was on Leno last month. Last month, Denise. You think Leno is going to have you on to talk about Charlie Sheen?” said Carmen.

“Look, we can discuss our relative worths another time. I want to know what happened on the set of Scary Movie 4,” said Denise.

“I knew it,” said Carmen.

“Was he fucking around on the set?” asked Denise.

“Not that I know of. I was doing my work,” said Carmen.

“Would you stop it already with the work. You are not an actress, Carmen. You’re just a thing, an item, a prop with tits,” said Denise.

“I don’t have to listen to this,” said Carmen.

“It’s not your fault. You’ve been placed in this position by the business. Maybe you can act, but the way you are used, the public will never know it,” said Denise.

“So you think I can act?” asked Carmen.

“Was Charlie fucking around? Was he doing drugs? What did you see? What did you hear on the set?” asked Denise.

“Charlie and I did lines,” said Carmen.

“Coke?” asked Denise.

“We ran lines. We read our lines together, stupid. I don’t do coke anymore,” said Carmen.
“OK, OK. Did he come on to you?” asked Denise.

“Of course not. I am married, and I let everyone know it,” said Carmen.

“Like that would stop Charlie,” said Denise as she picked up a bread stick and bit the end off.

“Look, Charlie was barely there. He had a small part, it was like a cameo. And he seemed to be real buddy buddy with David,” said Carmen.

“Zucker, David Zucker?” said Denise.

“Yes. I mean Charlie’s got this nothing little part, and he and David are like hanging together, going off into David’s trailer. We were all wondering where the director was, and then bingo, David would appear with Charlie, both smiling, almost giggling,” said Carmen.

“What are you saying, like they were doing drugs in David’s trailer?” asked Denise.

“I ain’t saying nothing,” said Carmen.

“You got to give me something, Carmen. That bastard is threatening to drag me through the mud and maybe even take the kids,” said Denise, as she glanced to her right, nodded and removed her Lance Armstrong sunglasses. At that moment, a photographer moved in quickly and snapped two photographs, the flash going off twice. Denise smiled. Carmen looked confused, her face contorted. The photographer hustled out the front door of the restaurant. The Hollywood suits craned their necks to see what the hub bub was about.

“Thanks for the photo op, Carmen. I got what I came for,” said Denise, as she put on her Lance Armstrongs, got up and sauntered out the restaurant directly into a black Chevy Suburban waiting for her on the curb.

Carmen sat at the table, confused. A photo with Denise Richards smiling and Carmen Electra looking upset. How would that play? What would people think? All Carmen knew was that it plays well when your smiling and bad when your not. That bitch. But then, any publicity was good. Carmen sipped her green tea as the waitress placed a check on her table.

An Ugly May Andersen Meets A Beautiful Prostitute

Two female Miami-Dade County police officers struggled to control May Andersen who was kicking with her long legs and screaming obscenities. The officers were shorter than May, so it was difficult to hoist her down the hallway. They straddled May on either side, holding her by the upper arms, with May’s bare forearms held behind her back. May turned her head toward one of the female officers and spit on her face as the officer pushed her into the lime green holding cell. May was thrown forward, but immediately turned and jumped like a rabid dog at the cell bars as they slid closed on wheeled tracks, making the loud sound of metal on metal. May grabbed the steel bars and shook them without success. The bared door was firmly set closed, and her skinny muscle-free arms were useless. The two officers stood at the closed door, both sweating and relieved to have successfully caged May Andersen without succumbing to the temptation of slugging her in the face. They were trained to use restraint. In other circumstances, the officers would have smiled and possibly said something to May as she was screeching from her jail cell. But the officers were confused by the behavior of this tall lanky world famous super model with bruises to her face and arms. May had been brought from the Miami International Airport where she had hit a flight attendant in the face twice, nearly knocking her unconscious. This all happened in flight on a jet that had departed from Europe.

“Fuck you bitches. You think you so important, you fucking bitches,” screamed May as the officers maintained their composure.

Across from May Andersen’s holding cell was another cell identical to May’s. A wire thin Asian woman, maybe no older than nineteen, was watching the drama that unfurled on the second floor of the Dade County Women’s Detention Center. The Asian had large round eyes with straight black hair that hung to her hips. Her hair covered one eye, and she seemed to disappear behind her hair. She was wearing a soiled tight black skirt ripped up the side and a black sleeveless tank top. She had her elbow leaning on the horizontal flat bar that ran from one end of the cell door to the other. Her other arm was extended upwards where she clasped her hand around a vertical bar as if holding herself up. The Asian girl was barefoot.

The officers walked down the hallway that brought May to her cell and left through the heavy steel door that had a narrow vertical double pane bullet-proof window along its edge. The door bolt sounded like a thunder clap.

May turned and kicked the aluminum framed cot that supported a pancake thin mattress.
“Fuck,” said May as she sat on the cot.

“Hi,” said the Asian girl.

May looked up and toward the Asian girl.

“I don’t talk to criminals, bitch,” said May as she rubbed her forehead to remove the skull-shattering headache she was fighting.

“My name’s April,” said the Asian girl.

“Cute,” said May.

“I don’t think it’s cute when the month is April like now,” said April.

“You not shitting me? Your name is April, huh? So you not making fun of me,” said May.

‘I do not know what you mean.’ said April.

“Yeah, like you don’t know I am May Andersen,” said May.

“Am I supposed to know you are May Andersen?” asked April.

“You fucking Americans all have sense of humor, but you are not funny,” said May.

“You have an accent, like from Europe, right?” asked April.

“Like from Europe. I wrong. No sense of humor, just stupid. You Americans are stupid. It is a Danish accent,” said May.

“Oh. Cool. I never met a Danish person,” said April.

“Look, I have splitting headache. Please do not talk to me,” said May.

“What you in here for?” asked April.

“Because I stand up for my rights. The bitch stewardess gave me a scotch when I asked for rum. Stupid, stupid, stupid. So I gave her a good clink to the face. She made such a big deal of it, like falling back and pretending to be hurt,” said May.

“You hit the stewardess?” asked April.

“What the fuck you in here for?” asked May.

“Prostitution,” said April.

“Oh yeah. I did that. Well, not really. But back in Amsterdam it is legal, you know. It should be legal. We should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies, right,” said May.

‘It’s legal in Amsterdam? Amsterdam is in Danish land,” asked April.

“Danish land? You idiot. Amsterdam is in The Netherlands. I am from Denmark,” said May.

‘Denmark. Cool,” said April. April sat down on the cot in her cell. “I’ve never hit anyone before. Does it feel good to do that,” said April.

“Fucking fantastic. I am going to hit the judge when I see him. I am going to hit the police. I am going to hit the next person who does not do what I tell them to do,” said May.

“You are joking, right?” said April.

“Nope. But you can’t do what I do. I am famous. I am a super model with a gorgeous body and a perfectly luscious face, as if crafted by the hand of god. I make twenty-five thousand American dollars for five hours work. That’s five thousand American dollars per hour. That says I can hit. That says that the world lets me hit people I do not like,” said May.

“I’ve been hit, but I never hit anyone. I won’t get a chance, anyway. This is the third time I’ve been caught. Three strikes and your out in Florida. My lawyer tells me I will have to do three years,” said April.

“Well, that’s because you are who you are. My bail was set for $3,000, and I will be out tomorrow, and trust me, back in Denmark by the next morning,” said May.

“My bail was set at $300,000. Guess they think I will disappear or something,” said April.

“Do the math. That means I am a thousand times more important than you. A thousand times more gifted, more blessed, more beautiful,” said May.

April looks up at May. “You are very beautiful,” said April.

“I am beautiful even at my worst. Even when I am ugly, I am beautiful,” said May.

“Three years won’t be too bad. Maybe I can learn something,” said April.

“Just learn your place, girl. Just learn your place and you will be fine. Now shut up so I can rest and get rid of this fucking beautiful headache,” said May.

May lied down on the cot with both hands on her forehead. April looked over at her. April’s eyes started to water up. Not really a cry brewing, just a little sad, just a little scared. She guessed that she was not beautiful as her mother told her. She figured that she must be ugly. Know your place, she thought. She looked down at the concrete floor of her jail cell and thought about trying to find her place.

Harrison Ford Gets A Third Earring

Harrison Ford sat in the leather love seat next to Calista Flockhart. Harrison’s personal doctor sat behind the desk facing the two lovebirds.

“So you want another one?” asked the doctor.

“Yes. On the left side. The symmetry now bothers me,” said Harrison.

“Like me. See,” said Calista as she gently tapped her left ear lobe which contained two small gold hoop earrings.

“One on the right, two on the left, is that it?” asked the doctor.

“Yes,” said Harrison.

“Why don’t you just stop wearing an earring on the right side, then you will avoid the symmetry, as you say,” said the doctor.

“It’s just something I want to do,” said Harrison as he smiled at Calista. Calsita smiled back.

“I got to tell you, Harrison, that my kids love your movies,” said the doctor.

“That’s great,” said Harrison.

“But, you know, it is hard for them to see you, to see Indiana Jones and Han Solo with earrings,” said the doctor.

“It’s not really any of your children’s business, now, is it?” said Calista.

“No sweetheart. I understand what the doctor is saying,” said Harrison. Harrison turns to the doctor. “When I played those characters, they did not have earrings because that was not the character. Indiana Jones and Han Solo would not have worn earrings. But this is me. I think you can explain that to your children,” said Harrison.

“I tried. But they do not see the difference. They keep asking me, ‘Why does he want to wear earrings? Why does he want to wear earrings?’ they keep asking,” said the doctor.

“Is this really your kids asking? Maybe it is you who does not want Harrison to wear earrings,” said Calista somewhat irately.

“Well, I got to tell you, Harrison, that you look awfully silly with those earrings. I mean, maybe if you were twenty, but your over sixty for chrissake,” said the doctor.

“Look, doc, I can get this done somewhere else,” said Harrison.

“It’s the vanity. The vanity makes you weak,” said the doctor.

“This is ridiculous. We don’t have to sit here and listen to this.” said Calista. She turns quickly to the doctor. “You are so yesterday. A man wearing earrings is like a man wearing Nikes. It’s now a male thing,” said Calista.

“I am sure I am so yesterday, as you say. I am not up on the latest cultural trends. Hey, I still write letters rather than use email. But I bet no one has told you, Harrison, how absurd those little gold hoops look on your ears. They are all scared to tell you. But no one, I mean no one wants Harrison Ford wearing earrings. Just like I don’t want to see you in high heels,” said the doctor.

“Harrison, can we go? This guy is a Republican, right wing, homophobe. We do not have to put up with this incredible verbal abuse,” said Calista.

“I am not abusing Harrison and I am not a Republican, thank you. Harrison Ford represents a hero to me. Granted, it may all be fantasy. But nevertheless, if you are going to make your living at creating a symbol, a myth that people want to believe, then maybe a simple thing like dropping a fashion accessory might be a small price to pay to preserve that myth for the public,” said the doctor.

Calista glared at the doctor. Harrison listened patiently. The doctor continued.

“Harrison, I mean no disrespect, but you and the myths you have created represent everything that men stand for. And do not kid yourself. Those myths, those fantasies are important to our culture. And then you show up with goddamn earrings. It’s like James Bond in drag. It makes me uncomfortable,” said the doctor.

“Uncomfortable? See, you are a homophobe,” said Calista.

“Calista, please,” said Harrison as he turned to the doctor. “Doc. Look, we can have this discussion another time. Would you just add the other hole to my left ear, please,” said Harrison.

“Actually, I guess I should be happy. When you called to make this appointment, I thought you were going to ask for a facelift. So I guess I should be happy that this is just about an earring,” said the doctor.

“You do facelifts?” asked Harrison.

“Yes,” said the doctor.

“OK, well, let’s get started with the earring, shall we,” said Harrison.

“Yes, of course,” said the doctor.

The doctor gets up. “I will get the equipment,” said the doctor. He left the room, leaving Harrison and Calista alone.

“He is sort of an asshole, and I bet he is a closet Republican and god knows what else,” said Calista.
“He does facelifts,” said Harrison.

“He’s not touching my face,” said Calista.

“I was referring to mine,’ said Harrison.

Calista looks at Harrison. “You don’t need a facelift sweetheart. But maybe a nose ring,” said Calista with a smile.

“I have too many nose hairs to deal with,” said Harrison.

“Sweetie, you got hair on your ear lobes too,” said Calista.

“I do? Damn,” said Harrison.

Two Dead American Soldiers Talk About President George W. Bush

Harold Hoey returned from Iraq with no face. It was the noon heat that made his head sweat under the heavy helmet. An itch developed over his right ear. He stopped walking, turned to the right and noticed Iraqi children in casual dress kicking a red soccer ball on the opposite side of the chest high makeshift metal fence that was erected along much of the perimeter of the highway that connected the airport with downtown Baghdad. As he watched the children, the head itch got worse. Harold took his helmet off as one Iraqi child kicked the red soccer ball over the fence in his direction. The red ball came to rest about five feet from Harold on the brown grassy patch between Harold and the fence. Harold was scratching his head and looked at the red ball. He bent down to place his helmet on the grass with the intent to retrieve the red ball for the children. As the helmet hit the grass, Harold heard a click. He looked down and in that quarter second between the click and the explosive blast from the road side bomb, Harold realized what the meaning of the click was. A quarter second is plenty of time to grasp the nature of what is about to happen, but no time to contemplate it. The blast hit Harold in the face and threw his body several feet back onto the pavement. The red ball was blasted in the opposite direction toward the fence and came to rest near a ditch that gullied under the bottom of the metal grating of the fence. An Iraqi child retrieved the red ball and the kids continued to play soccer. Harold died instantly, and now three months later he lied peacefully in an oak casket in a grave in a cemetery in northern Vermont.

Billy Brunt was lying in a casket which was above ground over an open grave pit that was immediately adjacent to Harold Hoey’s gravesite. Bill Brunt’s family and friends had left about an hour ago after a brief ceremony that was too secluded to include the customary flyover of US Air Force fighter jets. To substitute for the jets, a sixty-seven year old Vermont National Guardsman shot a blank from his pistol into the air, holstered his gun, and then handed an American flag folded into the shape of a triangle to Billy’s father who was sitting on a metal folding chair as the Guardsman said “this is from a grateful nation.” Billy’s mother, also sitting on a folding metal chair, was dressed in all black. When Billy’s mother heard the words “grateful nation,” she cried. Billy’s relatives and friends were all standing. Billy’s father lowered his head and placed the flag on his lap. Billy’s relatives cried. Billy’s friends cried. The three gravediggers leaned against nearby headstones holding shovels waiting to bury Billy. It started to rain. Billy’s parents left. Billy’s relatives and friends left. The gravediggers decided to take an extended lunch break.

Harold Hoey, below ground, and Billy Brunt, above ground, were alone, together in a northern Vermont cemetery.

“Hi,” said Harold.

“What? Who said that? asked Billy.

“Me. I’m over here, next to you. Underground,” said Harold.

“Oh. You dead?” asked Billy.

“Yeah. You too, huh. I take it from the little ceremony that you died in Iraq,” said Harold.

“Nope. I died at Walter Read Hospital in Washington. But I got my injuries in Iraq. My jeep was hit with a bomb. It caught on fire. I lost both my legs. But that ain’t the worst. It was the burns. My entire body was burned through. No skin. My right eye melted. The pain was real bad. The morphine didn’t help. They kept me alive for a week at the hospital. I was glad to die,’ said Billy.

“Yuck. I guess I was lucky. A bomb blew my head off. Died instantly,” said Harold.

“You mean you don’t have a head right now?” asked Billy.

“They reconstructed some of it. Put the bits together,” said Harold.

“I am glad that the whole experience is over, and I can now relax,” said Billy.

“That’s what I thought. But after you lie here for awhile you start thinking, and you get real pissed off,” said Harold.

“Pissed off? You can’t get pissed off after your dead,” said Billy.

“Oh yeah you can. Wait and see,” said Harold.

“What are you pissed off about?” asked Billy.

“The whole thing. I mean it’s over. My life is over. And I just turned twenty. I had twenty years. That’s it. I’m pissed,” said Harold.

“I got you beat by four years. I turned twenty four a few months ago. I was playing baseball for the Portland Sea Dogs up in Maine; a farm team for the Boston Red Sox. And the Guard called me,” said Billy.

“You play baseball? Wow. You might have made the majors?” asked Harold.

“Well, you always hope that,” said Billy.

“Did you see that President Bush through out the first pitch on opening day?” asked Harold.

“Well, I didn’t see that. That was the day my jeep got blown up,” said Billy.

“That sucks. Cheney through out a pitch too,” said Harold.

“I’m going to miss baseball. And my friends. And my family. Jeez, I’m going to miss a lot of stuff,” said Billy.

“Yep. That’s when you start getting angry. You start thinking like what was the point,” said Harold.

“Well, there was a point. I mean we’re trying to do something over there,” said Billy.

“Do the math. Was it worth giving up your family, your friends? Was it worth giving up baseball forever? Was it worth it for what we are doing over there?” asked Harold.

“It’s forever, huh?” said Billy.
 
“Yeah. That’s what this thing is. Death. It’s forever,” said Harold.

“My mother once told me that nothing lasts forever,” said Billy.

“The whole thing sucks man. I didn’t go to college because I had to get a job to help with my mom. My dad died a few years ago, so I had to get a job after high school. To help out. To help my mother and sisters. I have two baby sisters. Then the Guard called,” said Harold.

“I guess I can see why you’re pissed off. It ain’t good over there. You know after its all over, and we leave Iraq, I am going to guess that the place will still be a mess,” said Billy.

“I don’t care if it’s a mess or the Garden of Eden. I would still be pissed. I’m dead and buried, man. It’s over. Who cares what happens in Iraq. You think Bush really cares, I mean really really cares about Iraqis, I mean enough to put me here in this grave? No way. I mean, I don’t know what moved the man to send me to that cesspool and have my head blown off. He traded my life for some Iraqi’s right to vote. Fuck that. I can tell it’s raining, right?” asked Harold.

“Yeah, it’s raining,’ said Billy.

“I’m dead and buried in the wet earth, in the rain, and I didn’t even make it to drinking age and Bush is throwing out pitches on opening day. That’s why I’m pissed. I mean, did he come to your funeral? Did he come to my funeral? Has he gone to anyone’s funeral?” said Harold.

“Well, he wasn’t at mine,” said Billy.

“Bush wasn’t at my funeral either. But he was at opening day. He was playing baseball on the day you got blown up,” said Harold.

“Look, I don’t want to be angry. It’s not going to get me anywhere. I want to be at peace,” said Billy.

“That’s just an idea you have about being dead. Being at peace. It ain’t peaceful. It sucks,” said Harold.

“I guess we are going to become friends now that we are here. Here forever, huh,” said Billy.

“How much you want to bet we will be here, dead and buried with people startin’ to forget about us, we’ll be here next year when Bush and Cheney throw out pitches on opening day,” said Harold.

“Damn. How am I going to follow the Red Sox now?” asked Billy.

“See what I mean. This place we’re in. It sucks,” said Harold.

“Yeah. I see what you mean,” said Billy.

The rain continued. The earth became wet. The gravediggers returned, and in the rain, in the mud, the gravediggers buried Billy.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah Prepares To Declare Victory For CNN

The sun stated to rise over the eastern hills of Beirut, the beams cutting through the clouds of dust that hung in the air from the Israeli bombs that fell several buildings. Most of the automobiles on the streets in this southern neighborhood of Beirut were crushed under rubble. There were even fee appliances on the street, like refrigerators and stoves as well as furniture. On this strip, the center of the Beirut Shia community, there were sofas and upholstered chairs. An odd collection of pancake cars, kitchenware, living room furniture and an occasional bed. And everything was covered in light grey dust, the product of blown concrete and wallboard. In the center of this street were the remains of what was once a very large building, formerly fourteen stories tall and a block. It had been the offices of Hezbollah, as well as the Hezbollah health clinic and various charities. A pyramid of rubble, maybe four stories in height, formed a symbolic citadel in the center of the Hezbollah neighborhood.
Several armed Hezbollah officers were picking through the rubble, removing cinderblocks and twisted metal. When they created a large enough hole in the bottom of the pyramid, it became apparent that they were revealing a steel door that was unscathed by the pounding received by the building. The door opened, and the Hezbollah officers immediately snapped to attention and saluted with their right hands, a ritual that seems to have been adopted by all the military cultures around the world.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah emerged from the steel door. Nasrallah was covered with dust, his hair was filthy from the lack of bathing in the last two weeks, and as he collected himself, adjusting his shirt and torn pants, he spit out a large wad of wet wallboard dust that he had sucked into his lungs as he hoisted himself up the six flights of stairs from the deep basement bunker below the building. Nasrallah rubbed his eyes and saw the Hezbollah officer holding the Hezbollah flag. There was another officer holding the Lebanese flag. The officers awaited instructions.
"Today we plant the Hezbollah flag on top of this building to show the world we have not only survived, but that we declare victory," said Nasrallah.
"Yes, sir," said the officer holding the Hezbollah flag.
"And when do we hoist the Lebanese flag?" asked the officer standing next to the soldier holding the Lebanon flag at an angle, letting the tip of the flag drag on the dust pavement.
"When the time is right. But that time is not now. Get the cameras and let the CNN reporters into the area so they can show the world that we declare victory. But get to the top of the this mess with the Hezbollah flag before CNN gets here, and put away the Lebanon flag. When CNN arrives, we shall plant the flag," said Nasrallah.
The soldier holding the Lebanon flag ran down the street to hide it. And the officer with the Hezbollah flag started to climb the pyramid of rubble to get ready to plant the flag at the top.
"And get me cleaned up for CNN. I can't claim victory looking like this," said Nasrallah.
One of the Hezbollah officers thought that Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was a genius. Nasrallah always made it a point to appear filthy and bedraggled for his army, showing them that he was in the fight along with them. But for the world, he would clean up and show them that he came out of battle unscathed. The Sheik was a master of leadership. They had fought hard, thought the officer. And though his Shia neighborhood lied in ruins, though Lebanon’s ecopnomy was destroyed, though hundreds of civilians’ lives were killed and thousands misplaced, Hezbollah was declaring victory. As the officer stood among the Shia ghost village in southern Beirut, he felt pride . He was not sure what the victory was, but it did not matter, because he felt pride as he watched his fellow officer stumble up the rubble to plant the Hezbollah flag. Afterall, a flag is more important that food, running water, hospitals and schools. A flag meant you were a survivor. And to survive means pride. And to feel pride is really what it was all about.