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Welcome MSNBC.com Readers--UPDATED

It's not live yet, but at some point today, MSNBC will post some cultural analysis hung on the peg of Britney Spears' appearance last night on How I Met Your Mother. I'll link up as soon as technologically possible.

Technology UPDATE: Here it is.

When this was assigned to me, at first I cringed mightily, because I certainly don't want to be any part of the salivating media dogpile which is now a fixture of Spears' life. But then I realized that the tide is turning regarding the paparazzi ambush in a way I've never really seen before in celebrity culture, and so I decided to write about that. Everybody wants news about Britney Spears--but they want it to be good news. After witnessing the train wreck, people are now breathlessly waiting to see her emerge from the burning, twisted metal. And it's sick and it's hopeful and it's part of living in America. So this is largely a "coverage of the coverage" piece, and I hope everyone understands that in no way do I mean to attack Spears and her terribly sad circumstances. I'm trying to analyze how all these pieces fit together in the grand scheme of our culture; the essay is much more about us than it is about her.

That's why this is vastly different in tone from the first Spears-related MSNBC essay I wrote. That piece was written over six months ago. Six months is a rolling drop in the great river of our lives, but in media terms, it's the Pacific Ocean. Six months is a geologic age on the internet. I wrote it directly in the wake of the media storm concerning Spears' MTV Video Awards appearance, when she didn't seem to understand the serious trouble she was in, how her career had been created on the basis of how others see her-- that unless she began treating her own self with respect and took charge of her life, she would never find a way out of this enormous, hell-bound spiral.

Since then, Spears been in and out of rehab, and was subjected to the gross spectacle of cop cars escorting the ambulance and photographers which took her to the psychiatric ward. She seems to have stabilized, and on the show last night seemed healthy and sober. But, again: Six months. Six months of real time. Her latest visit to the hospital was less than four months ago. Yet here she is-- guest starring on one of the most popular sitcoms in the nation because she told her acting agent to find her “a small part on a funny show.” She shot her scenes with paparazzi helicopters hovering over the soundstage.

Maybe this is how Britney Spears heals. I don't know. What I do know is this: I got married eight months ago. I left my job and my friends and I moved to a strange place where I knew absolutely no one but my husband--and since I've never been married before, I had to get used to him, too, at the very same time he was getting used to me. I'm not even used to me yet. I suspected that the change would be traumatic, and gosh darn it, there it was. The only thing which is helping is time. (Okay, and drugs. But professionally moderated drugs.) It was difficult, and it still is difficult, even without TMZ and Us Weekly camped out on the front lawn. And I'm not dealing with substance abuse, a pregnant teenage sister, a custody battle, and whatever else goes on in what is considered the sprawling telenova of Britney Spears, Inc. I have a feeling that this is not what she had in mind when she first invited the world to view her life as a reality show in Chaotic.

So I'm not criticizing Spears. I'm begging her, human being to human being: Please, do yourself a favor and back away from the press releases. And the acting agents, and the stylists, and the contract negotiators, and the publicists. I'm no psychologist, but I'm thinking that maybe what Britney Spears needs right now is eighteen months in a remote Siberian village amongst fishermen and fur trappers and sugar beet farmers --fishermen and fur trappers and sugar beet farmers who shoot at interlopers who might show up with cameras and cardboard-boxed microphones. And when she comes back, if she has a hold of herself, then... well, it's up to her, isn't it?


Because I Care

So that my beloved The Readers do not go through life never having been RickRoll'd, look at this... non... Astley-related... thing!! It's so, so awesome!

I think it's notable that RickRolling has risen into popular culture at the very same time as this National Conversation About Race we seem to be having. Because when, in a thousand years, archaeologists somehow manage to watch this by-then primitive techno cave painting of a music video, they will have a full and complete picture of how white people of our culture danced, and they will correctly surmise that it rarely seemed to go all that well.

you wouldn't get this from any other site at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com


...And Then There's This.

I'm generating enough new-allergen snot to sink an aircraft carrier, but just in time comes a reminder that back at The Swamp, Northern Edition, life carries on as usual.

Money quote: "They're really nice guys, they were just really drunk yesterday."

But my very favorite part is that the news item, filed by the site under "Local and Regional Headlines," is completely indistinguishable from the links posted as "News of the Strange." What's it like to live in Florida?...That.

really nice guys at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com


"Crucify Him!"-- UPDATED

Catholics who attend Good Friday services all take part in a little play. The Passion according to St. John is read, with two lectors taking the part of a narrator and various players, the priest speaking the part of Christ, and the crowd-- well, the crowd is in charge of being the crowd. That means we say, many times, many ways, "Crucify him!"

When this is a yearly thing, it's easy to tune out and plunge all this into banality. When I was a sophomore, one of my brothers softly changed "We want Barabbas!" into "Wewease Woger!" at a Notre Dame Palm Sunday dorm Mass, which earned stifled snickers from those around us and one hearty glare from the celebrant.

But somewhere between the Peeps and the Magic Crayon, there is this: You're responsible for what happened that day. I'm responsible. This extends beyond guilt into truth and action. Because even though there's a good ending to Good Friday, we're still responsible--for each other.

Crucifixion UPDATE: I seem to have offended at least one (Apparently Now Former) The Reader with this one, and I'm sorry if the post is not clear. I meant emphasize the meaning of Good Friday--which is not only that our own sins put Christ on the cross, but that we are also charged with treating one another with mercy, kindness, tough love when necessary, and extra Peeps at every possible turn. A blessed Easter to all of you.



It's spring, apparently.


Time to hike. But only while carrying a velor purse.

This marks my third season in a row after five years in Florida. In the depths of January, I actually suffered anxiety attacks when I would touch the window, and not only was it not warm, there was nothing I could do to make it warm, and it apparently wasn't going to be warm ever, ever again. And so I thought that two consecutive days above fifty degrees would be most exciting, but-- no. Instead, there was illness and general physical misery, for I had forgotten that not only was I new again to spring, I had an entire tri-state-plus-Beltway area full of unfamiliar fauna to experience.

So I stayed inside and sniffled and colored eggs. I have colored eggs a lot. Josh has colored them twice, but showed himself a natural with the Magic Crayon.


Not so much with putting the correct color tablet in the corresponding cup, however. And that is okay. Jesus loves the orange eggs in the green tub, too.

vinegar at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com