In Japan the art of tsutsumi, or wrapping, is used in many ways, from gifts to brides to gardens to shrines to Buddhas. It’s not polite just to hand over an unwrapped gift, and you don’t slap on some paper, either. There is an art to origata, or gift wrapping, and rules of etiquette for how to wrap gifts like incense, kimonos, chopsticks, or money. And while many of these formal wrapping methods have fallen out of practice by many people other than for weddings and funerals, there are still those who maintain the old traditions.

Many of the items are wrapped using the idea of gentle concealment. Unless you are trying to keep the kids from sneaking a peek at the Christmas gift too early, you don’t wrap a present in umpty-gazillion layers and using duct tape. That would violate the idea of “gentle” concealment. A Japanese bride is often seen wearing multiple layers of clothing, the outer layer being white with very colorful inner layers. When she walks and moves, brief flashes of color may appear. Rather than showing all her beauty, which is her gift to her husband, her beauty is covered with gentle concealment.

I have enjoyed the actress Phoebe Cates in Gremlins and Princess Caraboo, and I’ve also enjoyed watching Alicia Silverstone in Clueless and Blast From The Past. I would consider both actresses as cute, rather than beautiful, but as cute as I think Phoebe is, I have to admire Alicia more for her refusal to do any nude scenes. IMDB quotes Phoebe as saying, “In this business, if a girl wants a career, she has to be willing to strip. If you’ve got a good bod, then why not show it?” Why not, indeed. While I am a fan of the female form, I appreciate knowing that there are people in Hollywood who refuse to strip and shout, “Check out the goods!” I guess it’s a question of modesty.

Modesty isn’t dead in America, but judging by the Girls Gone Wild videos advertised on late night TV, American modesty has a high fever and is coughing up blood. The founder of the Girls Gone Wild video phenomenon is Joe Francis, and my wife recently read a very interesting report about him by Claire Hoffman of the LA Times. This part of the story caught my eye:

I follow Francis and his bodyguard through the crowd to find Kaitlyn Bultema. She’s dancing on a podium and leaps off at the sight of Francis. She’s wearing a skirt-and-shirt ensemble that exposes her stomach, most of her breasts and much of her bottom. I ask her why she wants to appear on “Girls Gone Wild” and she looks me in the eye and says, “I want everybody to see me because I’m hot.”

It’s then that it hits me: This is so much bigger than Francis. In a culture where cheap and portable video technology lets everyone play at stardom, and where America’s voyeuristic appetite for reality television seems insatiable, teenagers, like the ones in this club, see cameras as validation. “Most guys want to have sex with me and maybe I could meet one new guy, but if I get filmed everyone could see me,” Bultema says. “If you do this, you might get noticed by somebody—to be an actress or a model.”

I ask her why she wants to get noticed. “You want people to say, ‘Hey, I saw you.’ Everybody wants to be famous in some way. Getting famous will get me anything I want. If I walk into somebody’s house and said, ‘Give me this,’ I could have it.”

Talk about the culture of narcissism! And speaking of narcissism, the actions of two self-centered women hit the tabloids recently, and for pretty much the same reason. Both Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears have been photographed multiple times wearing short skirts and no underwear in public. I guess nothing says “I’m a sexual being” quite like flashing the paparazzi a crotch shot. I have no desire to see any of the pictures of these two that are making the rounds of the Internet, and since there’s enough crud on the ‘net already, I wish they wouldn’t make any more contributions.

Speaking of contributing, Lindsay Lohan has been mocked in the media — and with good reason — for a message she sent to Robert Altman’s family after she heard of his death. For someone who supposedly got straight As in high school, her message is a mess. Here it is in all its dubious glory:

I would like to send my condolences out to Catherine Altman, Robert Altman’s wife, as well as all of his immediate family, close friends, co-workers, and all of his inner circle.

I feel as if I’ve just had the wind knocked out of me and my heart aches. If not only my heart but the heart of Mr. Altman’s wife and family and many fellow actors/artists that admire him for his work and love him for making people laugh whenever and however he could.

Robert Altman made dreams possible for many independent aspiring filmmakers, as well as creating roles for countless actors.

I am lucky enough to of been able to work with Robert Altman amongst the other greats on a film that I can genuinely say created a turning point in my career.

I learned so much from Altman and he was the closest thing to my father and grandfather that I really do believe I’ve had in several years.

The point is, he made a difference. He left us with a legend that all of us have the ability to do.

So every day when you wake up. Look in the mirror and thank god for every second you have and cherish all moments. The fighting, the anger, the drama is tedious.

Please just take each moment day by day and consider yourself lucky to breathe and feel at all and smile. Be thankful.

Life comes once, doesn’t ‘keep coming back’ and we all take such advantage of what we have. When we shouldn’t…..

Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourselves’ (12st book)

– Everytime there’s a triumph in the world a million souls hafta be trampled on. — Altman

Its true. But treasure each triumph as they come.

If I can do anything for those who are in a very hard time right now, as I’m one of them with hearing this news, please take advantage of the fact that I’m just a phone call away. God Bless, peace and love always.

Thank You,
Lindsay Lohan

I won’t tear into her for the bad grammar and incoherent writing, but I will point out that this message is yet another example of her narcissistic nature. It’s all about her, and when someone else dies, it’s still all about her. I believe I am vindicated in this opinion for two obvious reasons: if this were truly meant to be a private letter of condolence, it would not have been released to the media; and it focuses far too much on her own feelings about the loss, rather than trying to reach out to the Altman family in sympathy. Here’s the message as it should have been written:

To Catherine Altman and family,

I just heard the news of Robert’s passing. While I have only known Robert for a few years, during that he was the closest thing to a father and grandfather I have had, and the news of his passing has been just devastating. I can’t begin to imagine the depth of grief you are experiencing at this moment. Please know that I am here for you. If there is anything I can do to help you and your family at this time, please let me know.

With love,
Lindsay Lohan

Since this is a private message, it should remain private and not be released to the public. But that’s only important if you believe in privacy, modesty, and not letting it all hang out in public. Someone who has Lindsay’s ear should explain the concept of “gentle concealment” to her.

Yes, the school of hard knocks may teach you much about the world and yourself, but there is something to be said about learning a lesson from the painful experience of others. From the British paper, The Sun, here is a lovely story about sex, lies, and videotape:

THE BRITNEY SPEARS and KEVIN FEDERLINE divorce has turned nasty after it was revealed he is touting a Paris Hilton-style video of the couple romping.

According to our sister paper The News Of The World, dumped husband K-Fed has already been offered £26million for the FOUR hour tape, shot in the early stages of the couple’s relationship.

Britney fears the raunchy footage will destroy her wholesome image [Hah! Too late for that! - CM], unless she caves in to his demands for a £16million payoff and custody of their children Sean Preston, one, and Jayden James, eight weeks.

What is the lesson we should learn from this, class? The obvious lesson is to not marry a backup dancer and wannabe rapper who’s already got two kids from a previous girlfriend, but there is a not-so-obvious lesson that too many people have failed to learn:

If you don’t want sexy videos of you and your [fill in the blank] being made public, don’t make them in the first place.

Next time you are thinking about doing something, you might consider the worst case scenario: could someone use your actions to blackmail or embarrass you later? If the answer is yes, then you’d be better served by refraining from that action, don’t you think? But if you like being thumped as you work on your bachelor degree at the School of Hard Knocks, then proceed full steam ahead.

Knowing that my piratical wife has her own dangerous cutlass, I think I’ll do everything I can to stay on her good side. When I think of a worse case scenario, it’s not blackmail or embarrassment that I worry about. I’m much more worried about dismemberment.