IN THE LATE 18th century, the French writer Hector St. John de Crevecouer wrote that question in examining just who these people called "Americans" were. In the early 21st century, we at The Rant were forced to ask the same question when accidentally confronted with a list of various celebrities who may or may not prove "this year's hottest couple." (See the poll, at right).
Now, as is typical for these types of things, the list in question maddeningly referred to many of these celebrities by their first or last names alone, viz. and to wit:
Kournikova & Iglesias
Beyonce & Jay-Z
Britney & Kevin
Cameron & Justin
Martin & Paltrow
David & Victoria Beckham
Elton John & David Furnish
Hugh Grant & Jemima Khan
J.Lo & Mark Anthony
Jude Law & Sienna Miller
Liz Hurley & Arun Nayer
Rod Stewart & Penny
We recognized a few of the names on the list, of course, but we must admit we were a bit stupefied upon encountering some of them. This greatly bothered us. For the way this list was presented, it was as if people were more interested in celebrities than pressing matters like benefits law or state pension-scheme reforms! And clearly, we were Missing Out Greatly if we knew the answer to questions such as "Are QDROs Issued Nunc Pro Tunc Valid under ERISA?"* but couldn't tell you who "Arun Nayer" or "Penny" was if our lives depended on it.
Therefore, we turned to The Rant's pop-culture expert and lowly unpaid intern, Edward "Ted" Callahan, who is receiving credit at the University of California-Santa Cruz for his work here. Mr Callahan gave us an answer to our simple question, "Whence came all these people?"
* Yes, according to benefit lawyer B. Janell Grenier (see link above). Counselor Grenier answers the question regarding nunc pro tunc ("now for then") in depth, but the basic premise is this: a Qualified Domestic Relations Order generally allows attachment of one's pension-scheme payments for child support, alimony, etc. We know this only because we read it in our pension-scheme booklet last week, and pensions are covered by ERISA, the federal law governing a lot of retirement-related stuff. Receiving a QDRO in the mail is generally a sign your life is unpleasant.
A transcript of our conversation follows:
Mr CALLAHAN: Hey, chief.
Mr KEPPLE: Hey, Ted. Say! You get that thing with the RIAA straightened out?
Mr CALLAHAN: Yeah, just last week. It's great to be back, although I enjoyed hiding in Belize!
Mr KEPPLE: I'll bet. What'd they sue you for, anyway?
Mr CALLAHAN: I downloaded a copy of Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life." I didn't pay for it and I did it on purpose -- and I'll do it again!
Mr KEPPLE: Stevie Wonder? You got sued over Stevie Wonder?
Mr CALLAHAN: Yeah. Oh, God, it was awful. And then, when I tried to call the media, the editors and reporters laughed so hard they fell out of their chairs. Is it my fault I liked the song? IS IT?
Mr KEPPLE: Uh ... right. Anyway, Ted, you've got to help me with this celebrity-related stuff. Whence came all these people?
Mr CALLAHAN: Did you just say "whence?"
Mr KEPPLE: Since you've been gone, the Standards Department got all sorts of teeth, what with Sarbanes-Oxley and all. "Whence came" is apparently a good phrase to use in place of "who the hell are."
Mr CALLAHAN: Dude. Censorship sucks!
Mr KEPPLE: What are you talking about?
Mr CALLAHAN: You can't say hell anymore? What about (DELETED) and (DELETED) and (DELETED-DELETED-DELETED)? ... God.
Mr KEPPLE: It's not censorship. It's business. Get over it.
Mr CALLAHAN: Yeah, all right. OK, anyway, you were asking about the people listed in this Internet poll. Kournikova and Iglesias, that's the tennis player and the musician.
Mr KEPPLE: Ah, right! Uh. Wait. Aren't they forty years apart? Maria Kournikova's only like 17.
Mr CALLAHAN: No, no. That's Sharapova. This one's older and not as talented. Anyway, she's marrying Julio's son, who's a singer.
Mr KEPPLE: Beyonce and Jay-Z. She's the singer, and ... wait, what does he do again? Oh, that's right! He did "California Love." I love that song.
Mr CALLAHAN: No, no. That was Dr Dre. Jay-Z did ... you wouldn't have heard of the songs.
Mr KEPPLE: Britney and Kevin. Maybe we can skip this one.
Mr CALLAHAN: It'd be best, sir. The IT Department ran an analysis on their relationship like you asked. It broke the UNIBLAB 6000.
Mr KEPPLE: What! We paid hundreds of dollars for that machine!
Mr CALLAHAN: It blew out all the vacuum tubes! Oh, God. Even worse, (Chief Technology Officer Ned) Mr Henries got entangled in one of the tape drives when it blew. The Fire Department's still trying to get him unstuck.
Mr KEPPLE: Good God! ... uh. Moving on. Cameron and Justin. Well, we certainly wish Mr Bueller and Mr Timberlane the best of luck.
Mr CALLAHAN: That's Ms Diaz, sir. She was in that one movie you liked, "There's Something About Mary."
Mr KEPPLE: Oh, God! Of course! With Chris Elliott! Now there's an underappreciated actor, eh? Did you ever see "Cabin Boy?"
Mr CALLAHAN: Sir?
Mr KEPPLE: C'mon, Callahan, you're hip and with it! "Cabin Boy!" Well, I never saw it either. But Simon from Jersey liked it, I think.
Mr KEPPLE: Martin and Paltrow. Well, they can't be that important if the list refers to their last names, so let's move on. David and Victoria Beckham. Oh! She was in the Spice Girls! The redhead!
Mr CALLAHAN: No.
Mr KEPPLE: Whatever happened to the redhead anyway? God. She was hotter than ... well, we don't know, but she was superfoxy.
Mr CALLAHAN: She did some work for the United Nations, and ...
Mr KEPPLE: THE UNITED NATIONS?!
Mr CALLAHAN: It wasn't like ...
Mr KEPPLE: Oh, God, no. Not the United Nations!
Mr CALLAHAN: I'm sorry, sir.
Mr KEPPLE: So am I! Well, never mind then. As for Mr Beckham, well, hey. Real Madrid. Oy vey. Elton John ... nah, that's not going anywhere either ... say, Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan are on this list! Sweet!
Mr CALLAHAN: We all thought you'd approve, sir.
Mr KEPPLE: God, yes. Gee, that's pretty cool, I knew about one of these celebrity couples, right? Boy, Mr Grant got himself quite a catch, didn't he? Hope it works out for both of them. But who are these other people?
Mr CALLAHAN: Well, there's this one actress dating this one singer, and she was in Gigl --
Mr KEPPLE: Not Gi --
Mr CALLAHAN: Really, she was in Gi --
Mr KEPPLE: Why is she still on any list anywhere?
Mr CALLAHAN: We don't really know. The IT Department is looking into it now. We should have results shortly. But the Visicalc spreadsheets aren't working like they ought ...
Mr KEPPLE: Well, let's move on. Jude Law ... he was in that one movie with Tom Hanks, the mob movie. She sounds American.
Mr CALLAHAN: Very good, sir!
Mr KEPPLE: Well, moving on here ... Liz Hurley, never mind ... Rod Stewart and Penny. Penny? Doesn't she have a last name?
Mr CALLAHAN: Yessir. Here's a photo, sir.
Mr KEPPLE: Good Lord.
Mr CALLAHAN: Quite.
Mr KEPPLE: Maybe I ought to've been a musician.
Mr CALLAHAN: It does have its advantages, sir.
Mr KEPPLE: But I still don't understand where all these celebrities came from! It's like ... like we're deluged with these people, who crop up everywhere, yet no one really and truly deeply cares about them or their middling careers or anything else! I mean, Rod Stewart, for God's sake?
Mr CALLAHAN: We have a theory, sir! We're calling it The Dave Clark Five Law. Basically, what we've found is that the entertainment media likes new celebrities to present challenges to the old, because it increases sales, and recycling news about unpopular or minor celebrities also increases sales among those folks' fan bases. Hence, it pays for everyone to keep promoting various stars in concert with recording firms and movie studios and all that. And everyone involved makes money!
Mr KEPPLE: Really?
Mr CALLAHAN: Pretty much.
Mr KEPPLE: Oh, well, that's all right then. It's the market at work, and God knows I can't argue with that. But how do I keep on top of all this news, to keep current and with it?
Mr CALLAHAN: Television, sir.
Mr KEPPLE: God help me.
SO THERE you have it. Clearly, we need to watch more badly-presented entertainment news -- after all, doing so might have Tangible Economic Benefits! We'll make sure to keep Rant readers updated on the latest news involving New and Important Stars such as Lindsay Valderrama and ... well, other New and Important Stars! Just as soon as we can find a way to cash in like everybody else, of course.