- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Mellow Madonna?

"Motherhood and impending matrimony have mellowed her, admits the Material Girl.

" 'I'm more comfortable with myself and I am different,' Madonna told the U.K. Sun after airing her plans to marry Guy Ritchie and settle in London. 'It grounds you when you're a parent. I could have spiraled into the clouds, but I look at my children and the person I love and realize this is reality.'

"Does she miss the old, self-centered Madonna of yesteryear? Not one bit. 'There is always a part of me that's just like anyone else,' she says, 'but I suppose I sometimes used to act like I wasn't a human being. It takes time to handle things more gracefully.'

"In fact, she says, it can be tough to look her less-evolved self in the eye. 'Sometimes I look back at myself and remember things I used to say, or my hairstyle, and I cringe but that's life,' she shares."

Amy Reiter, on "What have you done with Madonna?" Monday in Salon at www.salon.com

Vote early and often

A couple of weeks before the Nov. 7 election, we were encouraged in North Carolina to help reduce crowding at the polls by voting early. To do so, we had to go to unfamiliar voting locations where the officials also were unfamiliar with us. I went, intent on testing the system. 'Belz,' I said to the poll clerk, who sought to help me by rattling off three possible first names for me to choose from. 'Joel,' I responded. But then, instead of asking me to confirm who I was by giving my address, she read my address to me and asked for a simple yes or no. No other identification was asked for.

"Mildly alarmed at the looseness of the process, I went back to my office and asked an adventuresome employee … to head for the same polling site and attempt to vote in the name of another of my daughters who is still on the roll but no longer in town. She too was asked for no identification of any sort … And then on Election Day, still a third daughter, after voting at her own precinct, came back to our family's home voting location to try to vote in the name of her older sister. Once more, no checking of any sort occurred.

"Net result: Within the scope of my own family, in just one election cycle, and with minimal effort, I could easily have arranged to cast at least two totally phony votes."

Joel Belz in "Vote early and often" in the Nov. 25 World magazine

Mean sisterhood

"It's Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris who's been designated by the popular girls of the media for this week's taunting… .

"By trying to enforce a law that disobliged [Vice President Al] Gore, Ms. Harris made the unforgivable error of applying school rules against the girls' favorite football captain. And therefore she had to be roasted.

" 'Her skin had been plastered and powdered to the texture of pre-war walls in need of a skim coat,' wrote Washington Post staff writer Robin Givhan, describing one of Ms. Harris's press conferences… .

"Ms. Givhan's meowing seemed almost restrained compared to the hissing of Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan … who prides herself on being a staunch feminist… . 'Most likely … [Ms. Harris] will be remembered for looking just ghastly Tuesday night… . Like Dr. Richard Sharpe, the transvestite and alleged wife killer. Or Marilyn Manson. Or Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie. Or Cruella DeVil… .'

"Sticking the claws in more deeply, Ms. Eagan added: 'Much as one would like to blame such nasty lookism on The Evil Patriarchy, I must admit it occurred to me instantly how old and hard she appeared. (Is she really just 43?).' "

Danielle Crittenden, writing on "Sisterhood Isn't Just Powerful, It's Mean," in Monday's Wall Street Journal

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