Out with the old (mostly) 

Wahoo! The war is over!

OK, so it isn't really totally over. Between what's still going on in Afghanistan and what the terrorists may yet do here, we probably haven't seen the end of the problems that began two months ago. Prevailing wisdom is that these terrorists are like the spiders in "Arachnophobia;" You think you've squashed a few, and then you find out There's A Really Big Web in the Barn. Except that terrorists don't seem to nest like spiders and human beings do, so the insects are actually more like us than the terrorists are.

But as pictures started coming in from a Taliban-free Kabul, at least it felt like the war was over. All of a sudden there were women with uncovered faces, people selling balloons in the street and music coming from shops. What was truly amazing was that these mundanities were amazing. Our kids are lining up to see the dizzying special effects of "Harry Potter;" theirs are being allowed to fly kites for the first time, and it's a big deal. So, between shovels of pie on the big food holiday of this week, one thing we are all probably thankful for is that we have our lives instead of theirs.

Forced perspective

This is the point at which someone usually says, "If one good thing has come out of this ..." But, honestly, "good" isn't a word I can connect with recent events. There may be a consolation prize, but "good" is a bit of a stretch.

The consolation prize is the reflectiveness induced by the events of 10 weeks ago: What were you doing before you discovered life was short, and how has your life changed since? Some people have reevaluated their spirituality; some have spent more time with their families; some have decided to quit their unsatisfying jobs and pursue dreams they don't want to go dormant. Some just kept doing the same thing, proving either that they're not clever enough to come up with something better or they're already doing what they want to do and aren't the type who will ever have to smack themselves in the forehead like those comic-strip characters and say, "Crap! I forgot to have kids!" or "Damn! I meant to become famous!"

Taking stock, deciding what to keep and throw away, is kind of fun, even luxurious. And since Sept. 11 stopped pop culture, politics-as-usual and other everyday-isms in their tracks, it's definitely worth taking a look back. Here's what we were thinking about before that date, with thoughts on what's worth keeping and what belongs on the garage-sale table of our collective consciousness.

Gary Condit: Is it important that Chandra is missing? To her family yes, but Condit's disappearance from the public eye was barely noticed. Unless they discover he did it, he goes in the Goodwill box without a blink.

George W. Bush: A U.S. News & World Report article dated Sept. 3, "Less bully, less pulpit," questioned whether Bush's low-key approach to the presidency -- not doing as much public speaking or being as aggressively visible as some of his predecessors -- was a good thing. Since September, he no longer has that choice, so that bit of punditry is definitely a throw-away.

Is the iffy outcome of the Florida election still important? It will be during the next election when we're all wondering how properly our votes are counted, so as issues go, this one has a shelf-life.

Anne Heche: Just before Sept. 11, Heche released a book, Call Me Crazy, in which she describes an abusive childhood and her eventual belief that she hailed from another planet. After you've been following the Taliban for a few weeks, talking to aliens seems a startlingly unimaginative form of lunacy. This one is destined for the discount bin.

Tax cuts: At the time, $300 may have seemed a pittance. But now that people are getting laid off by the bajillions, it's food and rent. And I never got mine, by the way; so dammit, it's still important.

Friends: The Sept. 10 cover story in People was about Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow: "From Single Girls to Married 'Friends' -- How husbands, homes and families have changed their lives." The personal lives of the overexposed didn't matter then. Now? They go on the "Every-thing for a dime" table.

Immunity challenged

A few quick calls:

Reality TV: After you've watched people try to survive for real, staged survival seems less interesting. It goes.

Ben Affleck's trip to rehab: Celebrities who can't handle their liquor are getting as tedious as the guy on the barstool next to you who can't handle his liquor. Take him away.

Low-rise jeans: Those singing belly buttons on TV give me the creeps. Besides, I don't look good in these. You can have them.

Finally, there are women's magazines, which I know a lot of people claim are filled with fluff, but they're so popular there's no underestimating their pop-cultural worth. Consider Cosmo's August cover story, "Lust Lessons. 10 Crazy/Sexy Bedroom Tricks to Try Tonight. Warning: Your Neighbors Aren't Going to Like It." Now come on. Of all the things we've talked about, could there be anything more important? There are just some things you should never part with.

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