Tag Archive | "Jennifer Aniston"

Feet of Clay

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Genuine Fan

Those of us who remember the joy of reading full-length books and the satisfaction of conducting research in the library, instead of pursuing bits and pieces of knowledge online, remember the adage about idols with feet of clay.  For those of us who don’t, the proverb relates to the situation that occurs when we place individuals upon pedestals and later find them to be mere flesh and blood mortals, just like the rest of us.

 

The Idols Syndrome, if you may, occurs most readily or perhaps most obviously with artists and entertainers.  In other words, those luminaries we see on TV, in film, and if we’re really lucky and they prove themselves to be true artists, in concerts, plays, and other live performing arts venues.   These are the same people we also see at checkout lines in the grocery and convenience stores: the Angelina Jolies, the Brad Pitts, the Jennifer Anistons, the Madonnas, the A Rods, the Oprahs, the Katie Holmeses, ad infinitum.   If the fact that I’ve pluralized their names offends you in any way, and you hear yourself hollering, “There is only one Oprah! There is only one Angelina!”, then you have subscribed to the phenomena of which I speak.  You’ve placed your celebrities in a stratosphere far above the planet upon which the rest of us live.

 

Why?

 

If they struck a chord with you, what did that chord sound like?  Do their drop dead gorgeous looks stop you in your tracks and halt the heart in your chest, as if Medusa herself had given you the evil eye?   Do they make you toss out your “little blue pills” as your idols are a lot cheaper, safer, and ahem, more effective aphrodisiac?  Do their impossibly perfect bodies, designer threads, and hordes of paparazzi allow you to live vicariously?  Or is it something less definable and a lot deeper?  Of the ever-widening pool of idols, what compels you to follow yours?

 

You could, after all, have your pick; celebrities in one form or another have been with us since before recorded history.  In more recent history, worship of actors, actresses, and others in the limelight rose to its zenith in Hollywood’s Golden Era.  While our nation was plunged into a deep Depression, the price of movie ticket plucked the common man and woman out of their miserable lives, immersing them in fascinating stories and characterizations unfolding upon the Silver Screen.  Beyond the confines of the theaters, these same fans followed the gossip about their stars like foxes in hot pursuit of rabbits.  And even when the idols proved to have feet of clay in well-publicized scandals (a la the married Clark Gable and the lover he eventually wed), the general public cut them some slack and continued to patronize their art.

 

Then, there was a clearly defined line between fans and entertainers.  Hollywood versus Joe and Jane Public was a bit like India’s caste system; fans generally knew their place as well as that of their idols, with the latter being somewhere up in that rarified stratosphere.  So why are we, as the dawn of the year 2010 approaches, so quick to point out the feet of clay in our own idols, and in fact, create feet of clay when none actually exist?  Why are we not as broadminded or as patient as our elders?

 

Answer: in days of yore, the Internet and reality TV shows, cell phones and camcorders had yet to be invented.  Technology has brought us so much closer to our idols that some of us have come to feel as if we own them and have every right to dictate to them.  Twitter, Myspace, and other social networking sites along with blogs and official fan sites enable frequent and extended contact with celebrities good enough to maintain such contact.   Casual passersby and rabid fans alike capture superstars perpetrating indiscriminate acts of kindness as often as they conduct indiscretions.   Evidence in the form of videos wind up for all the world to see and gloat over on the ‘net.

 

And let us not ignore the reality shows.  When programs such as American Idol, for example, bring undiscovered talent into our living rooms week after week and month after month, when they prompt us to vote for a particular contestant, and when that contestant wins or places, we follow them like lemmings to the sea.  Some of us jump in and announce that the water is fine; the rest of us turn away and get on with our lives.

 

The water babies among us then begin dissecting every aspect of our heroes’ and heroines’ lives.   And woe betide the icons who don’t give the hungry masses the things for which they yearn, because what they yearn for can never be fulfilled.  To satisfy every fan’s whims, spanning personal mementos to how they should conduct their careers, would be the equivalent of solving the unsolvable riddle about the pregnant Mary, Mother of Jesus, her husband Joseph, and their donkey.  If you don’t know that story, suffice it to say that both Mary and Joseph walked beside a perfectly healthy donkey under a brutal sun, just to placate the masses and their conflicting whims.

 

Before the advent of current technology, before the odd sense of familiarity bred by reality shows, we were content to allow our artists to be artists.   When The Beatles broke up, we wept and then followed the Fab Four, all of them, through their individual careers.  When James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and every other solo or combined act of true quality took the normal two years “off” to create their next albums, we waited and endured.  We remained loyal.  If we loved them enough, if their music spoke to us, touched something deep inside of us that we could not live without, we supported them silently.  We spun their records, shared them with friends.  We read the liner notes again and again and the interviews in Rolling Stone, Q, and Musician magazine.

 

We didn’t hound them with letters to their record companies, demanding word from them as to where they were in their artistic journeys and what they were doing in their personal lives!  We didn’t lie in wait for them, yammering for autographs to adorn everything from the shirts on our backs to our bare skin (well, most of us didn’t).  And we didn’t kick them to the curb for engaging in outside projects that captured their interest or maybe helped them pay the bills so that they could continue crafting the work that had so touched us.

 

Have the hurry up, gimme-gimme sound bites of technology and the surreal intimacy of reality TV made our society more impatient, more demanding, more  myopic, and more inconsiderate of those we have placed upon pedestals?  Have they made us into Walter Mitty talent agents?

 

I say “No.”

 

Technology and TV have not made us so, but they have illuminated those of us in fan bases who are genuine supporters.  The difference between the hurry up, gimme-gimmes and the real fans is that the Real McCoys stick by the artists they support, allowing them breathing room to create on every level, to be the artistic equivalents of the crew of the good ship Enterprise.  The true fans remain with open minds and open hearts, rejoicing in their artists’ evolutions.  The genuine fans will be those same familiar faces in the crowd greeting their artists, performance after performance.  The genuine fans are those of us who are in it for the long haul. 

The Love of Animals

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Love Animals

As I was watching the movie Marley and Me, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, I was reminded once again how essential animal companionship is in our lives. This film was based upon a true and wonderful story of two newlyweds, Jenny and John Grogan, just starting out on their lives together.  Not yet ready to begin a family, the couple decided to adopt a four-legged baby, an unruly puppy that most sane individuals would have put right back up for adoption.

 

Marley was a source of constant chaos.  He chewed up the furniture, barked constantly whenever it stormed, and was, in general, extremely disobedient.  When the couple did welcome children into their family, the dog seemed to become even more of a nuisance.  Jenny wanted to get rid of him but John did not.  To placate her and buy some time, he allowed a friend of his to keep Marley for a while.   Finally, it was decided that the dog belonged in their lives because he was a big part of their family.  Even with his many unpredictable antics, Marley somehow managed to imprint himself upon the family’s hearts. There, he remained into old age, when he became ill and had to be put down. 

 

Marley and Me is a reflection of society’s attitude toward animals, indicative of the evolutionary strides we have made as well the steps we have yet to take in honoring and safeguarding God’s creatures. Once considered solely a source of food, animals were not kept inside the home unless they could provide a useful service.

 

As the human race began to progress, wild dogs increased in value.  With a little training and the proper rewards, these animals began to be used as aids in hunting, guarding huts, and herding sheep and cattle.  Accustomed to taking direction from the alpha male in their packs, dogs transferred their allegience to the humans who fed and sheltered them.

 

Cats, on the other hand, took orders from no one and probably never will.  Refusing to relinquish the skills that have made them superior hunters, cats were prized in ancient Egypt for their ability to keep the granaries free of vermin; eventually, cats were elevated to the status of gods.  Horses were used to transport people and goods until Henry Ford introduced his invention, the car, to the world.  While equines are  admired for their beauty in formal shows, raced for profit, and ridden for leisure, the Amish people still use horses today for transport.  The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) which was initially founded to institute humanitarian treatment for horses, branched out to defend other animals, and gave rise to a slew of additional animal protection organizations.

 

Thankfully, animals are regarded in a much different light today than they were when our ancestors were eking out a living from an inhospitable world.  I am really glad that we have learned to appreciate the ways in which animals enrich our lives, by ensuring our safety and well-being and just providing us with unconditional love and acceptance of our faults.  Companionship is one of the great  benefits of having pets.

 

When I was young, my sister had a very ornery cat that could be downright scary at times.  Because of the scar I carry from her bite, this feline is remembered often.  Her name was Delilah but, truth to tell, my family thought of her as the psycho cat that sprang, seemingly out of nowhere, to attack with a well placed claw or bite to the shin.  She had her good moments, also, when she would purr happily, lying beside us on the couch.  As it was with Marley, life with Delilah was unpredictable; at times she seemed affected with bipolar disorder.  Everything was always on her terms, but then, it always is with a cat.

 

If she wanted to sleep in my room, for instance, it had to be her choice, not by my whim or command.  I’m not sure that I would have put up with that cat’s quirky attitude, had she been mine.  Somehow, though, she brought my sister great pleasure, since she had the kitty for 14 or 15 years and did not know how old the cat was at the time she had adopted Delilah.  Across the globe, the cat and my sister were inseparable; my sibling had adopted her in Germany, along with another cat that she named Sampson.

 

I often wondered if my sister kept her persnickety puss for pure entertainment value or just to liven things up. When Delilah got mad, her body would bristle up and her tail got fat.  You could never quite be sure what she would do, in those moods, including hiding out in various places and them jumping out to pounce upon unsuspecting victims.

 

Now, Sampson was a different story.  A tiger kitty with a much sweeter disposition, he was a great comfort to me on many occasions when I was staying with my sister.   After being involved in an accident, for instance, I was laid up in bed for a few days.  The house was quiet during the day, so it was nice when Samson would jump on the bed and snuggle beside me for an afternoon nap.  When I was feeling lonely, he would hop on my lap to get scratched gently behind the ears.  At night, it was nice to feel his warmth next to my feet; his contented purrs often lulled me to sleep.

 

When he gazed up at me with his big golden eyes, it was almost as if he was really listening to my problems.  If I were feeling sad, he sensed that and came to rub against my leg.  It was quite upsetting when one day he just never returned home from his usual “neighborhood watch.”  Although we searched for him high and low and inquired of our neighbors, we never saw him again.  I had always hoped that one day, that wonderful cat would show up on our doorstep; he was such a beloved member of our household.

 

Samson and Delilah were but two members of the constant parade of animals we had coming in and out of the house when I was a child.  With two brothers and three sisters, our menagerie included iguanas, birds, ferrets, hamsters, white mice, fish, turtles, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and I am sure that I am leaving out a few species!   We kids were always bringing something into the house and it did not have to have fur. This included ladybugs, lightning bugs, toads, frogs, birds that had fallen out of nests, and anything else that we could catch.  My parents liked animals, as my mom had grown up on a farm and took pride in raising her 4H cow. Although, sometimes our parents would get irritated when we would drag something new home.

 

Living in a stationary Noah’s Arc, I almost couldn’t blame my parents. My dad always liked to have a dog hanging around the house; when his favorite dog Goldie died, he was devastated.  She was pretty funny because she was so attached to dad; when my mom put her arm around dad, for instance, she would growl as if my mother was a rival for his affections!   Goldie knew that dad was her person.  My mom loved her too and would even wrap up a cookie for her at Christmas, as if wrapping a present for one of the family.  After Goldie’s passing, it took dad a while before he would allow himself to grow close to another pet, because his favorite dog’s passing was as distressing as losing a member of the family.

 

Having a cat or dog can do a person a world of good.  They are, for instance, great company for the elderly, particularly when an older person loses a spouse and needs to care for something in order to feel worthy and useful.    Medical science has proven, via numerous studies, that the very act of caressing an animal lowers one’s stress level. 

 

Dogs are a boon to anyone with a sedentary life style; they force us to walk them and get some fresh air and exercise.  They are also used to detect drugs and explosives, and to subdue criminals prior to the arrest process. Some dogs are crucial members of search and rescue teams, and some have become the saving grace of the handicapped.  Dogs have come a long way in our society from their initial task of helping man to hunt and guard the property. 

 

Because a cat’s sense of hearing is twice as keen as a dog’s and their sense of smell is far superior to that of a canine, many critical rescues have been attributed to cats.  This includes the family that was literally dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, and others that did not smell the smoke of their burning houses, until the family kitties intervened to save them.  Cats are also used as companion animals in nursing homes.

 

We may scoff when we see pampered pets wearing little raincoats and sweaters but care of this nature is simply a sign of love for our animal friends.  It really ticks me off in the summertime to see a dog sitting in a car when it is hot and humid outside.  If the driver leaves the window rolled down a bit and the air outside is not stirring, this does not provide adequate ventilation for the animal.  As the winter approaches, anyone who owns a pet must ensure that the creature has a warm place to sleep and enough to eat to stave off the cold.  If the animal must live outside, its water bowl must be checked frequently in case it has frozen; without fresh water, an animal can become dehydrated.

 

Many products used by humans are harmful and potentially deadly to animals.  These include and are not limited to chocolate, aspirin, onions, garlic, and a vast array of flowers and shrubs, including the Yuletide mistletoe. 

 

Caring for animals is like having children.  They need preventive medical attention, regular meals of an appropriate and healthy variety, and yes, love. Serious consideration should be taken into account before making the decision to bring a pet into the home; too many unwanted animals are just dropped off cruelly along highways or other places where they are unable to fend for themselves.  If you find yourself in a position where you can’t care for your pet, try to find it a new home.  If this is not possible, call a local shelter where another person may see your pet, fall in love with her, and give her a good home.

 

Be sure that your pet wears an identifying tag, should he become lost as Sampson did.  Better yet, have your vet microchip your pet.  The size of a grain of a rice, a microchip injected just below your pet’s skin, carrying an ID number that is then registered with a national registry, can help bring your pet home.   Recent statistics show that 97% of all pets are returned because of microchipping!

 

Many of us still eat animals, although protein is plentiful and viable in other forms.  Some companies still conduct experiments on animals in the name of medical and cosmetic research, when computer-generated trials, properly designed and utilized, will yield the research that we seek.  In some international waters, whales — the Earth’s largest, highly intelligent mammal — is hunted.  Poachers still invade wild terrain across the globe, seeking animal parts to sell to practitioners of “traditional medicine,” even when the clinical benefits of such have yet to be proven   As a species, homo sapiens still has a long way to go to in our humane treatment of animals.

 

However, if you are lucky enough to have a pet, enjoy him or her to the fullest. Shower him or her with love, attention, and respect and you will have made a friend for life who will be with you through thick and thin.

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