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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 February 2007, 00:59 GMT
Washington diary: Martians and celebs
By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

When little green men from Mars eventually descend on our planet and unearth America's time capsule dating back to the beginning of the year 2007, it could skewer their whole view of our great civilisation.

Florida police photo of Navy Capt Lisa Nowak
Astronaut Lisa Nowak's story sparked huge media interest

"What's with the viewing figures?" they will wonder.

The country was embroiled in a losing war in Iraq, a festering war in Afghanistan and a looming war at the presidential polls.

But the issues that glued the nation to their flickering screens involved an astronaut who wore a nappy while driving across the country, a pop star who was so vexed by celebrity life she shaved off all her hair and a dead stripper whose burial tested the wits of Florida's finest legal minds.

The astronaut...

First to the plight of astronaut Lisa Nowak.

It will be the wig, the knives, the ropes and the bin liners that police found in the trunk of her car that will puzzle our friends from Mars. But not, I believe, the adult nappy (or is it diaper?).

If war, war, war is your daily porridge, who can be blamed for indulging in something totally frivolous yet utterly genuine

Space travellers from every world must know all about the need to suppress the desire to go in fast-moving, tight-fitting capsules.

So when there simply is no time for toilet stops on the feverish road to smite her lover's lover - which in this case involved a 1,000 mile drive from Houston, Texas to Orlando, Florida - then the adult diaper is the obvious choice.

The veteran NASA astronaut and mother of three did exactly what was required. Years of costly and gruelling training had clearly paid off.

The pop star...

Next to Britney.

In recent years her body mass has been more volatile than the property market and her love life more complex that the Mahabarata, but that's not what propelled Britney Spears into the limelight with such endurance.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears shaved her head last week

Nor, one could argue, was it her impulsive desire to grab the sheep shearers from an unwitting LA coiffeur and mow her own scalp.

Indeed, being bald themselves, the Martians may even appreciate the fact that Britney now looked more like one of them.

No, the thing that will prompt our extraterrestrial visitors to scratch their pointy heads is that no sooner had Britney's golden locks nestled on the hairdresser's floor than some clever entrepreneur was flogging them for a whopping $1m on e-bay.

And the judge!

From the bald Britney to another bald human: Judge Larry Seidlin - although it might as well have been Seinfeld! - from Broward County, Florida.

Before they departed for earth the Martians had read up all they could on America. They learned about the Founding Fathers, the Bill of Rights and how the greatness of this powerful nation had been built on the rule of the law and the cold, sober eye of Justice.

Judge Larry Seidlin gets tearful in court
Judge Seidlin cried as he gave his verdict in the Anna Nicole case

So, why was this robed judge reduced to a blubbering flood of tears when he read the verdict? And why did he do so in a case involving the burial of America's most famous dead blond after Marilyn Monroe?

And why, oh why, did he drag out the proceedings for six agonising days, when the former stripper's body was rapidly decomposing in a storage room below the courthouse?

And let's face it, this wasn't just any old body. When it still had a pulse it turned the head and mind of an oil billionaire who was 63 years her senior.

"I don't worry about this baby," the judge, who used to be a taxi driver in the Bronx, told the court - referring to the dead Anna Nicole Smith rather than her live infant daughter.

"We've got her in the cooler and it works!"

Light relief

Some bores have used these three episodes to repeat their mantra that modern America is obsessed with celebrity.

Wrong! Who before all this had heard of Larry Seidlin and Lisa Nowak?

We have been captivated because each one of these escapades featured an unscripted moment of hilarity, insanity or frailty in our otherwise so scripted world.

This is after all the era of YouTube and MySpace - both of which, by the way, the Martians claim they had long before us.

And if war, war, war is your daily porridge, who can be blamed for indulging in something totally frivolous yet utterly genuine?

The Romans had Ennius and Juvenal to distract them from their woes. Seventeenth century England had John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester and the Martians, bless them, will have us.


Matt Frei Troubled times
Rollercoaster ride as America wakes up to economic crisis

Jan - Jun 2008
Jul - Dec 2007
Jan - Jun 2007
2006 entries

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


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