Helping Time editors figure out who to name `person of the year'

November 13, 2007|By LIZ SMITH | LIZ SMITH,Tribune Media Services

After attending Time magazine's entertaining annual Person of the Year symposium last week, I believe the "person" may turn out to be another "something." That is to say - the environment!

Brian Williams, a regular of this annual panel, suggested Mother Earth. Whoopi Goldberg went for the "green," noting that even her grandson cares only for two things - "basketball and recycling." And MySpace's youthful creator Chris DeWolfe suggested Al Gore. He also noted the way our stock market and economy operated in 2007.

Former Sen./Gov. George Allen of Virginia, a stalwart of the GOP, stunned the crowd by suggesting Gen. David Petraeus. (Allen seems to believe the war is turning out successfully, but I don't think Time could get away with such an assertion.) This left Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an advocate for women's equality in the Muslim world. She cited the new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. "He is a stalwart, forward-thinking progressive friend of the West."

TV guy Joe Scarborough suggested George Bush, saying no leader with such a dismal approval rating has ever gone on asserting such arrogance, power, chutzpah and strength in putting across his agenda and having his way in an age of disapproval. He spoke of the president's effect on the Supreme Court. This was a very meaningful, if controversial and unpopular idea.

My own would be for Time again to go with a universal and not necessarily happy phenomenon. (Last year Time selected "YOU" - the people.) I think this year it could well cite the cataclysmic confusion, stress, worry and resulting triviality of this time affected by instant technology. There is no downtime anymore from the worship of celebrity and trash. People always wanted to be famous and to know others who were famous. But now we have a super examination of celebrity 24/7 and there is no optimism or expectation except of the next scandal. Technology in instant messaging, bloviating opinion and the Internet's sprawling speed and ubiquity have forced real changes this last year.

Editor Rick Stengel told us that Britney Spears was one of the people who'd been suggested. Well, as horrible as that may seem, she and her many partners in celebrity, plus the money-making paparazzi, the likes of Harvey Levin's TMZ, YouTube, MySpace could all be looked upon as an accelerating "happening." People mad to be famous for 15 minutes and to worship others who are famous, are also affected by constantly changing methods of quick communication. They use this as a way to forget the world's worrisome, important and serious issues.

Instant Technology for people gone "celebrity mad" is my choice as the biggest change-maker of 2007.

This and that

France's sexy prexy Nicolas Sarkozy is still wearing his wedding ring and insiders say he'd give anything if his escaped wife, Cecilia, would only come back to him. ... Roger Friedman of Fox News claims the reason [Meryl] Streep and [Robert] Redford were not at the recent tribute to Tom Cruise is that they don't like Tom! ... Robert DeNiro, once the young Godfather and from the city's Mean Streets, is shooting up in high society. He was Lally Waymouth's seatmate at her dinner for the Davos crowd.

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