20 April, 2009

About Celebrity

What would your world be like if everyone knew you by a single name? Cher, Elton, Sting, Madonna, Elvis, Beyonce, Prince (or the artist formerly known as... now a symbol) … pretty cool huh? What if you had your own phrase, after all Billy Joel is the ‘Piano Man’, Julia Roberts is the ‘Pretty Woman’. Madonna is also the ‘Material Girl’ but now we hear that she is changing her name to ‘Esther’. These are the celebrities of our time. They are the darlings of media. Just like Cary Grant or Jean Harlow; Monroe, Garland, Gable… they certainly have talent. The later having great dentifrice as well being rather uncommon in those days. It made them far more photogenic than other artists of the day. Dentistry is cheaper now.

Celebrity has been defined for us in so many ways. One movie has stated that celebrity has become an 'apotheosis' (that being the elevation of a person to the rank of deity). We reject flaws in our heroes (look at Michael Jackson’s support). People once became famous because they were special. However, today many are considered to be special because they are famous. Andy Warhol was right; everyone does get his or her 15 minutes of fame and in some cases very much more. Kato Kaylin, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie... none appears to possess a discernible talent.

It is a truly curious development of modern media. Americans in particular are enamored with the wealthy and the powerful. Magazines, entire shows and even entire cable networks are devoted to tracking the exploits of celebrity. Media exposure is so powerful that the public becomes aware in a virtual moment when someone has gained notoriety (Susan Boyle springs to mind); or infamy (as the case may be). Jeff Peterson has actually received numerous marriage proposals while the murder investigation of his wife Lacie continues.

Fame is much more about ones physical appearance than ever before. An attractive person is automatically credited with enviable traits and skills simply because they have ‘eye appeal’. Thanks to MTV and television in general we have become a visual culture! We presume that an appealing, attractive or glamorous person must also be compassionate, sensitive and philanthropic as well. We automatically attribute to them wisdom and resourcefulness and intelligence! This may even help to explain the current crisis in pop music, that being one of ‘form over content’.

It is an astonishing assumption given the actualities. Less attractive people generally have more complete personalities. They have to shine from within. Attractive people are generally accepted for their looks and do not have to work so hard on their personalities. Reality check: the most attractive people in your high school classes were likely the hardest to get along with!

Wealth and fame do seem to coincide, but there are many wealthy people who are not famous. However, only a few famous people are not wealthy. One thing is certain; there are no famous poor people!

09 April, 2009

About Smells

Dogs are reputed to have something like 200 times more olfactory receptors in their capacious snouts than do we humans. This makes them excellent if unpredictable allies in the search for contraband. The turkey buzzard can locate rotten meat from miles away using their sensitive olfactory setup. Scent marking is an important method of communicating territory as well as declaring gender (and receptivity) in all four legged creatures. Moose and Rhinoceros even create hollows or ‘middens’ on the ground as a kind of 'scent station'. Can an animal really smell fear?

Miami is one of the few places in the world where a car can pass you on the street at 40 miles per hour (with the windows up) and cologne of the operator will linger! Ships at Sea are some of the few places in the world where your waiter can pass you at dinner only to send a wave of body odor wafting across your meal. It’s really off-putting but most people are way too polite to mention it.

Some cultures have little access to water and so showering daily is a new concept. Still it is an odd experience to smell the janitor’s body odor three floors away!

It's likely humans no longer respond to pheromones. Those little indicators of identity popular with the animal kingdom have been disguised beneath layers of scented drier sheets, detergent, spray starch, deodorant, scented soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, body lotion, hair spray, styling gel and of course perfume to name a few.

Some people prefer natural smells. We line closets with cedar because it’s wholesome and neutral. Napoleon would dispatch a rider to Josephine a few days before returning home asking that she not bathe… apparently he liked her scent. Not surprisingly it was the French who would excel in combining fragrant oils to make perfumes and colognes both pleasing and costly!

Smells can transport us back to a moment in time. Our mothers cooking, the perfume of an ex-lover, a copy machine, a Christmas tree, a pencil, a magazine, garlic bread, leather or that new car smell… you know what I mean. Heaven forbid someone should sniff beer on your breath!

Humans handle scents in very different ways. Sometimes I think men began to enjoy cigars after dinner because smoke would mask a myriad of other post dinner odors! Women are universally awed at the many ways air can exit the male body! My Dad was pretty open-minded about these things. Sometimes he’d let out a huge fart and challenge his kids to ‘catch that, paint it green and put in a bottle’!