2009 just had its 2008 moment, in the sense of the loss of an ingenue who actually had talent, not just an external skin that God had smiled upon. Last year, it was Heath Ledger. In the days before the last Christmas of this decade: Brittany Murphy.
She played the straight girl to Alicia Sliverstone in the timeless hit, Clueless, an upscale L.A. re-telling of the Jane Austen novel, Emma. Brittany Murphy also earned a following in a movie called Sin City, and co-starred alongside Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted, and with that weird guy in 8 Mile.
She died at 32 of cardiac arrest, four years older than Ledger, with a panopoly of prescriptions, and an erratic husband in the driveway when the 911 truck arrived. The furthest person we could collectively project as being drawn into the addictive quality of pain and fame (Michael Jackson was easy for us) now becomes a new form of pause and prayer: may this vivacious talent’s soul be sanctified and released.
With death motivating the living, the winter solstice, which occured early this week, is held by many as a transition from death into life. Literally meaning “the sun stands still”, the winter solstice holds profound spiritual significance for people across the world, notably bringing new life into a dying world. Winter signified a dying world, which the living often drove away with rituals and prayers, making room for the coming of new life in spring.
Polish police have recovered the stolen sign that once stood over the gate to the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Reading “Arbeit macht frei”, the sign served as an ironic promise to Jews entering the now infamous camp, and later as an iconic rememberance of the Holocaust. Five men have been taken into custody after cutting the sign into three pieces and eluding police for several days. Whether planned or coincidental, the sign was stolen hours before the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, a celebration of Jewish freedom and independence.
With memories of World War II past, Pope Benedict XVI has placed Pope Pius XII in the fast lane to sainthood. The cause of sainthood for his predecessor John Paul II is not surprising to most, but Benedict’s move to canonize Pius XII has raised eyebrows, particularly those who argue that the late pope did not do enough to rescue Jews from Nazi Germany. Defenders of Pius’ record argue that WWII pope did a great deal to save the lives of thousands of Jews, from hiding Roman Jews in the Vatican to issuing fake baptismal certificates.
Speaking of helping those in need, in the “giving as good as he gets” category is Justin Timberlake, who according to The Daily Beast, ranks number six on a list of charitable celebs for this year. Justin beats out Angie Jolie, Oprah and even Madonna and the demi-god known as Bono. The list is apropos given this time of year, helping givers and receivers reflect on charitable contributions and their being reported in the media.
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