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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rick needs a reality check

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, in his ill-advised response to President Barack Obama saying everybody in the United States should go to college, declared that plenty of Americans who succeed in life "aren’t taught by some liberal college professor try(ing) to indoctrinate them."

Perhaps Mr. Santorum (who, by the way, holds a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a law degree) should have spent Monday with my son, Marc, and me as we toured the Rochester Institute of Technology, where Marc has been accepted and may enroll this fall. What we saw was not an institution of political activism, but an institution of learning; a campus populated by young people enhancing their intelligence and their qualifications for careers, not falling under the supposed left-wing spells of elitist professors who exist only in the twisted mind of Rick Santorum.

And the only politically slanted item we saw among the myriad fliers that adorn various walls on the campus was — care to guess? — an advertisement for the RIT chapter of the Young Republicans.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Didn't they almost have it all?

Michael Jackson.
Amy Winehouse.
Now Whitney Houston.

Three recording superstars who rose to fame before our eyes.
Three celebrities whose lives unraveled before our eyes.
Three self-abusive personalities who, in the past 2-1/2 years, died far too young.

Tragic, to be sure. But in no way surprising.

I've been an editor at daily newspapers for 27 years, so I've grown accustomed to — and am fairly unfazed by — seeing stories come across the wire titled with the word "Obit" followed by a famous name. And lately, sadly,  I've grown accustomed to so many people who seemingly have everything being willing to throw it all away, as a public spectacle no less, in patterns of destructive behavior that ultimately lead to their premature deaths.

Early passings among self-medicating stars certainly are nothing new. Listing such names as Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, John Belushi, Chris Farley, River Phoenix, Anna Nicole Smith and Heath Ledger barely scratches the surface. But it also yields the obvious question: Why?

Why is celebrity so inexplicably linked with recklessness and checking out at a young age? Is it the pressure of fame? Is it corruption brought on by wealth? Is it a misguided sense of immortality? Is it a "hope I die before I get old" mentality?

Whatever the case, it just doesn't make sense to those of use who live outside of the spotlight. For us — most of us, anyway — life is something to cherish, preserve and, at all costs, make last as long as possible.

In the celebrity world, life, like stardom itself, seems so disposable.

And that, perhaps, is even more difficult to accept than the deaths themselves.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Super sum-up

Some random thoughts about Super Bowl XLVI:

* The fact that a team that went 9-7 in the regular season can win the NFL title is a testament to how mediocre the league has become. (For God's sake, if the Eagles had won just one more game in the regular season, the Giants wouldn't have even made the playoffs.)

* I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it's just a little too coincidental for comfort that the Giants' two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots — in 2008 and last night — each featured a late-in-the-fourth-quarter comeback drive by Big Blue that included a highlight reel catch (the David Tyree helmet catch four years ago and Mario Manningham's just-inside-the-sideline grab last night) and a go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute to play. As a Giants-hating friend of mine on Long Island would say, it seems scripted.

* How the ball bounces really can make a difference: The Giants' two self-recovered fumbles last night, including one deep in their own territory, were game savers. If the Patriots had picked up one or both of those loose balls, there likely would be no joy in Jersey today.

* I truly liked only three commercials during the game: the Pepsi ad with Elton John, the TaxACT spot with the little boy who really has to pee, and the one from reliably funny Doritos in which the baby in the slingshot grabs the chips from the kid in the treehouse. The rest were pretty forgettable.

* The Honda ad with Matthew Broderick reprising his lead role from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" didn't make me feel nostalgic for the 1986 movie. It merely made me realize how old Matthew Broderick looks these days.

* I read this morning the rapper M.I.A. flipped the bird to the TV cameras during Madonna's halftime performance. That was news to me. I watched the whole performance and didn't see it happen. It must have been over in less than a second.

* I'm not a Madonna fan, but I will say this: She looks as good at age 53 as she did in her 30s.

And lastly...

* The fact that three of the six comments I just wrote had nothing to do with the game itself is a testament to how the Super Bowl has, over the years, become less of a football game and more of a cultural happening.