Great balls of ire 

We have all seen and been part of a dreadful yearbook-type group photo. Whether it was drama club, some ghastly wedding or the interdepartmental newsletter's "What's up with our gals in the pen-biting division?" piece, we've all sat alongside our colleagues wearing a smile we might as well have drawn on with marker, wishing the camera would backfire like a car. Sure, the photographer would have third-degree burns, but it would let you get away. Have you noticed that no one smiled for pictures in the olden days? That's because they were more honest than we are.

By far the most haunting and miserable group photo I have ever seen was in a book called "Freaks: We Who Are Not as Others." The picture was of a little coffee klatch of African tribesmen looking as glum and inconsolable as a child whose uncaring God has allowed his candy to fall into the sewer. The caption reads "Elephantitus of the scrotum," and indeed, the boys have nuts like cartoon beehives, and they each look like a scrawny Charlie Brown Christmas tree with the one gigantic ornament hanging off it. With their cojones hanging down to their knees, they all appear to be giving birth to one of the aliens from "Mars Attacks!"

I think of this photo every time I hear of someone with a lot of nerve. Not courage. Nerve. Someone with enough brass in their drawers to start a wee marching band. Informercial hucksters, tabloid photographers, televangelists -- I regard them, as I do the guys in the photo, with a mixture of awe, disgust and wonder at how anyone manages to grow balls that big.

Guilt Tripp

Great gonads were displayed like the Hope diamond recently when it was announced that Linda Tripp is suing the Defense Department and the president's office. She is suffering, you see, from "extreme public embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety and ridicule," and feels her privacy rights were violated by "damaging information." This from ... Linda Tripp.

I know. Doesn't it make you feel like you asked for a map and someone handed you a Dali print? It's highly illogical, until you remember that ludicrous lawsuits are a great way to make a fat pile of cash not through any merit of your own, but by pointing an accursing finger. Kind of how it would be if you wrote a scandal book on a friend you ratted out. Think of it that way and it makes sense.

Linda Tripp has always been full of baffling surprises. We're not talking about your garden-variety moodiness or duality. This woman has enough identities to rival Lon Chaney. She's Monica's friend and then her Iago; she's a loyal employee who is now suing; she was an innocent bystander who had conversed with a prominent book publisher about a tell-all. Well, when you're sitting on a set of nads the size of a Hippity Hop, it must get easier to bounce from self to self.

Self-conflicted wounds

The AP wire story that announced Tripp's lawsuit noted that, in the throes of the scandal, Tripp was viewed by three-quarters of the country "unfavorably." This is the understatement of the century. Linda was the most hated woman in America -- mostly for inflicting extreme public embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety and ridicule and for violating people's privacy rights with damaging information. Her suffering from what she inflicted on others proves a couple of things.

One is that Mike Brady was right when he told Thindy that nobody likes a tattletale.

The other is that karma has caffeinated reflexes, so you better be careful what you put out there. Linda Tripp will be very lucky if those White House lawyers don't hire some seductive male intern to befriend her and then tape her secret chats and sexual proclivities for all the world to puke over. I don't mean to bait karma by wishing bad things on her, but I don't have to: She's doing it herself. A lawsuit will only bring more of the digging and humiliation she's claiming to be so disturbed by.

Linda Tripp whining about privacy violations smacks of the IRS driving people to suicide and then wondering why those people's relatives hate the agency. This isn't Whoville; you can't try to steal Christmas and then expect everyone to sing with you around the tree.

Author Toni Cade Bambara once wrote, "Don't let your mouth get you what your backbone can't stand" -- something Tripp should have read before she had the sack to tell Monica she looked fat in anything. It's good advice: We should all check sometime and see that our eyes, mouth, spine and heart all carry about the same weight, and that they're bigger than our balls. Keep those at a reasonable size. Unless you want them to lead you to big things -- like having John Goodman play you on "Saturday Night Live."

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