Posts Tagged ‘fame’

Selfish Mistrust

7 May 2010

Dear J-

I blame the media overexposure: right now I have Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold running through my head (also interesting how certain songs are censored depending on the station they’re playing on — I’ve heard the uncut Creep on only one radio station, and that was in the Bay Area, but censorship will wait until another day). This month’s issue of Lucky magazine features her on the cover; inside they show a picture of her from 2004 as a relative unknown — she’d dress up and crash parties, hoping to get noticed, and they were struck by her fashion sense then.

I don’t mean to be curmudgeonly, but that seems to be the modern twist on the fairy tale, like a Cinderella story where the payoff is fame. It seems strange that we’d pursue fame for being famous, but in this world of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, what lesson are we teaching? Should recognition be its own reward? I think I’ve touched on the absurdity of news reporter celebrities before — the face is familiar because they read the news, and the choice of who shouldn’t depend on how recognizable they are — but we run the risk of diluting our messages and overshadowing the content when we elevate the reporter above the story. Likewise fame: we shouldn’t have to use the fame as a platform for a cause, but unfortunately that’s what’s needed to gain attention.

I was walking around yesterday after being selected for a random drug screening (having heard horror stories about not being able to produce, I promptly went to the cafeteria and drank six glasses of water). I was always amazed, growing up, watching my dad recognize the people he worked with as we walked around campus — name and department — and I’m starting to get there now, walking around and spotting people I know. It’s not fame (not in the same sense as being notable), it’s hard work that starts at the ground level and establishing yourself as trustworthy and dependable when most of the names come up in my mind. I’m starting to feel the thaw, where attitudes shift from selfish mistrust (“only I can do it right”) to mutual respect. We’ll get there.



Looking Glass Life

8 December 2009

Dear J-

Being the non-watcher of sports, theVet isn’t particularly surprised by the ever-escalating tempest surrounding Tiger Woods; she pointed out to me the other day it wasn’t clear how he earned this clean reputation and the subsequent betrayal, in the eyes of the media, of that image.  Now that everyone’s been quick to attribute everything from his distracted play this year to the continued erosion of family values because he wasn’t able to keep it in his pants I find myself wondering what a frightening thing the cult of celebrity is.  After all, you could make the assertion that his image was less the result of things he did (I know about the charity work and the charming, telegenic life) as it was a careful result of perception and assumption:  keep your life outside the public eye and not only is everyone going to believe you put your pants on one leg at a time, the rest of your life will be just as normal as ours.  Stars, they’re just like US, right?

How difficult must it be to groom your image so immaculately that people are able to project their own hopes onto that blank face?  I’m sorry if that makes Tiger seem mercenary, but his income is predicated on his ability to move product; the better he is at being likeable, the more he moves, and he does move enough to be paid nine zeroes, a figure usually reserved for defense contractors.  We let ourselves down when we assumed things about people we don’t know personally (athletes from Mark McGwire to Michael Vick and beyond; politicians like John Edwards and Mark Sanford; actors like Paul Reubens and Robert Downey Jr.).

I suppose that as long as we have celebrity, we will elevate and venerate them as role models; though we love the unexpected bonuses of having them turn out to be decent folks, so long as they remain human we’ll have to put room on those pedestals for error, or at least not build them so high.  We tangle our perceptions of what they are justly famous for — whether playing a game or playing a role — with what they are not — like being a father figure, or a paragon of behavior.  Ultimately we have to remind ourselves that there are other people’s lives at stake here:  the intense media scrutiny is fed by viewership, and our need for gossip may end up ruining their relationship.  We may have believed that celebrities lived in glass houses, but it’s more like we’ve bored holes into their walls, catching a glimpse of something we shouldn’t, every so often; if we can’t afford simple courtesies, turning our heads. how human are we?


4 November 2009

Dear J-

Michael Jackson music is becoming available on the used market again; I remember reading tabloids (it’s all we had to read at the store — in decreasing order of believability:  Star, National Enquirer, and Weekly World News, which had an obsession with bat-human hybrids and Michelin-esque babies) trumpeting the wackiness that would lead him to buy the remains of Joseph Merrick and sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber.  I’m not claiming to be well-adjusted and mature by any means, but I always got a sense that he never quite outgrew the child star:  if you were insanely famous by the time you were five, but always working to keep that star rising, I’m pretty sure you’d never have a chance to grow far beyond.

The difference is how his fame sustained over years on end — unlike, say, child actors — which just postponed the inevitable, I suspect; I didn’t get Thriller, for instance, until last year, but my life has been richer for it.  Now I understand the accolades that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I’d only had Dangerous.  Talent brings fame; fame brings an entourage; he never had a chance without someone looking out for him.

I worry, sometimes, not that figgy will become inordinately famous or immensely talented, but that the discipline of little things doesn’t get imparted.  I have poor impulse control at times — funnel cake does not make a good mid-morning snack — and if she’s as perceptive as we suspect, she’s soaking up the examples we lead.  We already have to watch our language with the mimic in the house, and hauling the cats around is right out (having been given the little cat to bring inside once, she is now prone to grabbing them randomly inside the house); it only makes sense that her so-far favorite people should make sure she doesn’t miss a lesson.


Once again, the bellybutton

18 November 2006

Dear J-

I must have this deathly fear of being forgotten, since it seems like all I do lately is hide things around the house for people to find in the event of my demise (much like this correspondence, in fact). I put away a box of letters (daddy, what are letters? well, in the days before e-mail …) after flipping through and taking stock of where I sat in the grand scheme of things; by far, theVet has sent me the most, back when I had time to write, back when I had the ticket to write.

It pervades my life, this drive for quantity over quality. The shelves are groaning under the weight of obsolescent audio disc players (TDA1541 and CDM-2 seems to be the magic bullet for me). I’m throwing some game systems in the shed, having had no time to play anything but the latest and greatest, and even then only a few games. Man, this growing up and cleaning up is tough.

But of all the choices I’ve made — not keeping up with as many people as I’m willing to meet in this world has got to be the worst, most boneheaded one. Hi, how are you? Here I am. Let me write to you, talk to you, get to know you — and then disappear, ha ha! It’s mysterious, not knowing what happened, it means that anything could have taken place between now and then. It’s just another manifestation of Clark Kent-itis, isn’t it? As long as I can get people thinking about me, that means that I’m not nearly as invisible as I thought. And Clark, buddy, the glasses aren’t fooling anyone. How long do I think I can keep the charade moving along? Where do I see myself going with this, with life, with anything?

As I’ve said before, it’s an ordinary sort of goal in life, and yet I don’t want that forever, do I? Growing up, house in the city, couple of cars, some kids drawing on the walls, big screen TV, running water, vacuuming Saturday afternoons drinking with shoes off stereo hifi robe slippers dog by the fire vacations on Maui bikes on the beach sunsets sunrise spa pool trivia reality shows carpool asleep on the couch by nine …

There’s too many ways to numb ourselves to life, ways to pass the time. How much easier and uninteresting is it to spend the entire weekend indoors in a video-induced stupor without once bothering to shake your neighbor’s hand, visit family (why do we always wait for holidays as an excuse?), or call and reconnect? I’m not ready yet, I think. I keep trying to be a better man, and it’s not easy, never was.


High School (Aren’t We Joe Cool Yet?)

5 November 2006

I’m not convinced I got the most out of high school. But at least I got out.


To be honest, things didn’t change much in high school. The hair of the student body didn’t pose the fire hazard that it used to, but we stayed in the groups that we’d split into as junior high people. I don’t condemn it because it just happens and seems as natural as plate tectonics: huge masses rushing towards each other and one would inevitably grind the other down, but not without rumbling and trembling. It’s not always a wasteland, though; sometimes you find genuinely honest and wonderful people, like some of my neighboring locker-owners. We all had to deal with the peculiar quirks of the school, such as how it was designed for southern California weather (and hence was a series of disconnected buildings) while experiencing a snow-belt reality. I still like almost all of the people who graduated with me, but it was difficult to reach across the group borders afterwards; I have yet to contact probably 90% of my graduating class with something stronger than a rumor.