"GOD CREATED war so that Americans would learn geography," said Mark Twain.
IT'S DIFFICULT to write about silly popular culture when it seems we are on the verge of yet another war or "conflict" or "preventive" measure -- now in Syria. Well, there is nothing we can do for fun except watch endless YouTube clips of Miley Cyrus and wonder cynically if all this stuff about the "disappearance" of Lamar Odom, husband of Khloe Kardashian, and his reported "crack cocaine" habit is for real, or just more Kardashian PR tomfoolery to keep themselves in the news.
There is no such thing as "15 minutes of fame" anymore. It's not enough for a generation brought up on the relentlessness of reality TV and the omnipresent Internet, Facebook, etc.
Today, everybody is Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" -- "I won't be ignored! My best to Mr. Odom, if indeed, he is struggling with substance issues. He might be better off away from a family that makes hay out of every aspect of their own and other people's lives. (Come on! Who do you think is feeding TMZ all these stories?)
SPEAKING OF TMZ, I wonder how Harvey Levin, the head guy on that powerful gossip site, felt being loosely interpreted on the new Showtime series "Ray Donovan." Oh, he wasn't called Harvey Levin, but it didn't take a genius to figure out who the gossip maven in the show was. And I'm sure Harvey's real-life enemies were kinda thrilled to see him (and his onscreen boyfriend/bodyguard) get their comeuppance from Ray, played with deadly taciturn effectiveness by Liev Schreiber. (They weren't killed, just frightened enough to probably have to rush to the nearest Armani store for new pants.)
AS OF this writing, neither Michael Douglas nor Catherine Zeta-Jones have confirmed People magazine's story that the couple are "taking a break" from each other.
I hope the story is not true, and if it is, perhaps they are simply taking a "temporary" break. The couple, whom I like tremendously, have been through a lot in the past few years -- Michael's near-fatal cancer, his son's incarceration on drug charges. These things take a toll, even on the rich, famous and beautiful.
FANS OF the '70s super-group Sly and the Family Stone are in for a great treat. A four-disc compilation, including 17 previously unreleased tracks, live recordings and TV recordings is out today via Epic Legacy Records.
The band recorded five Top 10 Billboard hits and produced four groundbreaking albums, which combined the sounds of funk, R-and-B, soul and hip-hop. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
At one time, it was impossible to escape their driving, upbeat and seductive sounds, so suitable for steamy disco's and hot summer days and nights.
The set also includes a full-length, 194-page book, along with track-by-track annotations.
ONE OF our readers was very excited about the possible remake of the old Kim Novak/James Stewart, "Bell, Book and Candle" movie. He loved the idea of sizzling Charlize Theron as the witch. But he suggested Colin Firth as the mortal ensnared in her spooky wiles, along with Jack Black as Charlize's mischief-making warlock brother and Julie Walters as the dithering aunt -- an older witch whose powers are getting a bit wobbly.
RECENTLY, in writing about the return of the brilliant final season of "Breaking Bad," I mentioned that Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler, the wife of chemist-turned-meth-king (and killer) Walter White (Bryan Cranston), was one of those love-her-or-loathe-her characters.
Apparently, it's more loathe than love. So much so, that Ms. Gunn recently wrote a piece in The New York Times, trying to figure out exactly why the character is so despised?
She expressed herself as even more mystified when the hate for the character began to extend to her personally. "How had disliking a character spiraled into a homicidal rage against the actress playing her?"
She continued: "But I finally realized that most people's hatred of Skyler had little to do with me, and a lot to do with their own perceptions of women and wives. Because Skyler didn't conform to the comfortable ideal of the archetypal female, she became a Rorschach test for our society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender."
There is more, and I suggest you look this terrific piece up online. As for me, I have always considered Skyler to be occasionally unlikable, but with very good reason. She doesn't put up with his c--p, although she has accepted her role in his criminal activities. (And a good deal of the cash that comes with it.)
I thought one of the greatest pieces of acting I've ever seen was the episode two weeks ago, when the meth business began to unravel. And Skyler would not, could not, speak openly to her sister and her brother-in-law. Few actresses have conveyed so much saying virtually nothing.
It was superb performing by a superb actress, playing a fictional character almost none of us could possibly understand. On a television show. I feel we must always remind people who become so invested. IT'S JUST A TV SHOW.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
War looms, and we dance on the precipice with Miley and the Kardashians
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