God, Madonna is shameless about publicity, isn't she? Somehow, I find it hard to sympathize too much with her when she calls a live, televised, webcast, stereo-simulcast, distributed-by-satellite, available-on-properly-equipped cellphones press conference to complain that the media doesn't respect her privacy. You know, it seems to me that the only time Madonna doesn't draw a crowd is the opening weekend of one of her films.

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but why is it that the only people who are quiet and mind their own business nowadays are the serial killers?

Nobody minds their own business anymore. Americans stick their nose where it doesn't belong more than Cyrano de Bergerac giving head.

We live in a nauseatingly confessional society. But it wasn't always that way. There was a time when you wouldn't dream of telling a guy you just met that you were an alcoholic. Unless, of course, you met the guy because you had driven your car into his swimming pool.

True, thanks to our tight-lipped Puritan ancestors with their scarlet letters and witch hunts, we've always been a nation obsessed with the doings of others. In the past, however, we justified our pejorative meddling with some lame, moralistic claptrap about "upholding community standards." Well, the fact is, folks, community standards have now deteriorated like the relationship between Brett Michaels and C.C. Deville on VH1's "Poison: Behind The Music." By the way, I hear Poison is touring again. It's always nice to go see a retro-tour of a hair band where the only drug they're now shooting up is Rogaine.

Hey, in our media-saturated culture, the border between news and entertainment is crossed more often than a line in one of George W. Bushs coloring books.

The thing about the entertainment media's particular brand of voyeurism is, we're so easily bored that, if somebody wants to keep our attention, they must continually super-size the freak value. I was watching "Springer" the other day and actually saw a couple get their marriage back on track by beating the shit out of each other. I think Jerry's final thought was entitled, "I'm OK, You're OK, Bitch."

Then there are the hapless casualties of voyeurism like Monica, Darva, and Kato, forced to watch defenselessly as every nook and cranny of their personal lives gets slurped into America's bottomless maw for other people's humiliation -- all under the false rubric that a free and open society has the right to know. At first fidgety, these quasi-luminaries ease into their new roles quickly, seduced by the yodeling highs of celebrity that smudge the line between the famous and the infamous, until there's no real point in their ever saying goodbye. They turn into Abe Vigoda - you always think they're dead, and yet, they're always RSVP'ing in the affirmative. It's sort of like Karmic extortion. We wouldn't leave them alone, so now it's their turn. And in the end, their fifteen minutes last longer than a cross-country airplane conversation with a Jehovah's Witness who sells life insurance.

What I can't fathom are the people who auction off their privacy on the open market. You can go online now and actually watch mutants and cybergeeks who record every nanosecond of their lives - every snore, every burp, every restraining order filed against them by William Shatner - and beam it out over the Internet. It all raises the interesting philosophical question: How can you broadcast your life when you don't have a life to begin with?

Do the media and the Internet feed this tendency, or merely reflect it? It's hard to say. We're living in a time when personal boundaries are more blurred than the camera lens in a Joan Collins photo shoot. You would think that this would help to generate more openness between people, but all it seems to have done is increase our mistrust. We feel perfectly comfortable spending hours online, sharing our innermost thoughts and yearnings with complete strangers, but we don't even meet the people living next door until there's a huge earthquake and everyone's out on their lawns at one in the morning. As a matter of fact, that's the scariest part of an earthquake - hearing your 58 year-old neighbors Myrna and Leo explain how they had just strapped her into the Vietnamese fuck basket, when all of a sudden, she started swinging back and forth, like King Kong's balls on a hot day. "Well, thanks for the visual, Myrna, I think I'm gonna go pick up a downed power line now, OK?"

One of the most disturbing trends in the demise of personal privacy is the proliferation of hidden cameras. They're everywhere now. [POINTING AT CAMERA] As a matter of fact, what's this? I just don't think that's right. When I'm by myself, just like everyone else in this room, I do things that I would never do if I knew I was being videotaped. I pick my nose. I scratch my nuts. I squeeze blemishes. I work at my stubborn dandruff patch. I kick off my shoes and bite my toenails. I use whatever's lying around to scrape my tongue. I pull nostril hairs out and measure them with a small silver ruler I carry on a chain around my neck and record their length in millimeters in an embossed spiral notebook. I pinch my nipples until my eyes tear up, and I straddle things and yell "giddy-up," while slapping myself on the ass with a Victorian carpet beater. The point is, I should be able to pass my time waiting in line at the Post Office any way I want to.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.


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