Like a chameleon: Ever since the then-24-year-old Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone released her first album in 1984, part of the fun of following the “Queen of Pop” has been  following the shifting identities of the woman BBC nicknamed in 2002 “The Chameleon.” This week, as tomorrow’s 50th birthday for La Ciccone approaches, one British tabloid noted that she seems to be celebrating by ending her lengthy  faux-British “London period,’ and returning to the town/international city that birthed her:

At 50, Madonna is unlikely to be any better at dancing, singing or
acting than at 20, but she’s not going to give up trying — even though
keeping in shape is harder than it used to be. The Madonna who trotted out in her Jimmy Choos to scatter corn for
her poultry and boasted of coping with her insomnia by getting up to
shoot pheasants was a ridiculous figure.

Her return to her old apartment in New York, with its own gym and beauty salon, seems like a return to sanity. Perhaps the turmoil of menopause has ended for Madge, and she is
entering a new period of calm and creativity, leaving Guy to play
country squire in Wiltshire…

People who can sing and dance and act are two a penny. Madonna is enormously talented at something far rarer. It was her genius to realise that marketing was more important than
talent as early as 1979, when she registered Madonna as a trademark.

Guinness World Records list her as the world’s most successful female recording artist of all time and she has sold an estimated 200 million albums. Her last tour, “Confessions”, became the top-grossing tour ever by a female artist. The Sunday Times estimates Madonna and Ritchie’s fortune at around $600 million.

Be a shame if anything was to happen to those 18 million votes:
Speaking of a woman recognizable around the world, supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton rejoiced at the news that they will hear her name placed in nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Veteran reporter Bonnie Erbe, who says she has been “reporting on the political scene since before God was born,” writes that the carefully planned “tribute” to Clinton’s historic candidacy is nothing less than a bid for political survival:

This is more than just symbolic. It shows the degree to which Obama’s team is now willing to try to woo former Clinton supporters into the Obama camp in November. One might also call it an admission that the Obama campaign is desperate to win the support of the 20 percent or so of her 18 million supporters who have been telling pollsters they will not vote for Sen. Barack Obama.

A Lifetime TV poll last week showed that, and: “While Obama is doing well with minority women, with support from 89% of African-Americans and 62% of Hispanics, McCain garnered support from nearly half of Caucasian women surveyed (47% vs. 38% for Obama). Hispanic women (14%) were more undecided than African-Americans (4%) or Caucasians (11%).”

It’s not entirely coincidental that the decision was
announced one day after a new Pew Research Center poll showed the race
between Obama and Sen. John McCain in a statistical dead heat. Just one
month earlier, Obama enjoyed a comfortable 8 percent lead over
McCain…. Key to Obama’s chances for victory in the fall is his appeal
to white women, 40+, a key support group for Clinton. At least as of
the end of last month, he was doing very poorly by historical standards
with this group:

According to the latest Fox News survey, Obama
is winning among women under 40 by 13 points, but McCain is winning
among women aged 41-45 by four points. Among women 50 and over, McCain
is three points ahead. Obama’s 48-35 lead among women under 40 is
normal for a Democrat, but to trail among women in their 40s by 45-41
and by women over 50 by 38-35 is extraordinary. The problem is that
older women don’t like Obama as much as younger women do. While 70
percent of women under 40 have a favorable opinion of the Democratic
candidate, only 58 percent of women in their 40s feel the same way, and
only 52 percent of those over 50 see him favorably. For a Democrat to
be losing among women over 40 is without precedent in the past 20 years.

the Obama campaign is starting to pay attention to this group, but
there may not be enough time for him to win it over. Allowing Senator
Clinton’s name to be placed in nomination is a good start, but Obama
needs to do more, much more. The Internet is rife with websites
launched after Clinton conceded in June ( and some of
them threaten that there is nothing Obama can do at this point to win
their support. Another good move, unlikely to be made but a good idea
nonetheless, would be a public apology by Obama and DNC Chair Howard
Dean to Clinton for not chastising media commentators who made
blatantly sexist remarks about Clinton during her campaign. Will we see
that much humility from the Obama/Dean team? Again, unlikely, but it
should be considered. Not only can Senator Obama not afford to lose
these voters to Republican McCain, he cannot afford for them to stay
home on Election Day.

Buff is the new black: Between the Olympics’
parade of toned Olympians and the well-defined backs and arms of celebs
like Madonna, more and more women in midlife are realizing that there’s more to the gym than the treadmill:

are raising the bar higher than ever when it comes to fitness and
physique. It’s a combination of nutrition, technology, science, vanity,
motivation and a firm embrace of the concept that age is just a number.

And it’s not just 40- and 50-something celebrities and athletes who
want to look fit and fabulous. Rita Farias, co-owner of Phoenix Fitness
and CrossFit, says women come in all the time asking how they can look
like Madonna.

“We’re getting women in their 40s and 50s deciding, ‘I have the time and I can work on myself,’ ” she said.

“Toned is the word they like to use,” she added. “And it’s
achievable.”The obsession with fitness and muscle tone is a relatively
new one, said Dr. Lorraine York, McMaster professor of celebrity and
culture, adding the ascent of women’s sport and the amount of attention
on the Olympics have upped the profile of muscular bodies….

[Client Vicky Higgins] has [now] placed in four out of five
competitions she’s entered. “I’m lucky genetically that when I
strength-train, I get definition,” said Higgins, who is now a personal
trainer. “But if I could look like anyone, I want to look like Madonna.
She’s in amazing shape for her age and it just proves that you can
still look good at 50.”

For others, a goal such as this may not
be so realistic. “It can be done,” fitness club owner Farias said. “But
people don’t realize how much work it is.”

A different kind of pragmatism:
WVFC readers in Boston may want to check calendars for September 10,
6-9 p.m — at least if you’d like to see 64-year-old Frances Moore
Lappé,  the author or coauthor of sixteen books including the  1971
three-million-copy bestseller Diet for a Small Planet and Democracy’s Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life:

Together, Lappé and her daughter Anna Lappé lead the
Cambridge-based Small Planet Institute [2], a collaborative network for
research and popular education to bring democracy to life. With her
daughter, she is also co-founder of the Small Planet Fund, channeling
resources to democratic social movements worldwide.

On September 10, as at numerous other appearances across the country, Lappe  will discuss her newest book, Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, & Courage in a World Gone Mad. In its 2006  review, Tikkun Magazine said of the book, “If
this book isn’t inspirational and helpful, then I don’t know what is”:

The best part of
Lappe’s book to me was when she suggested a whole new vocabulary for us
to use–It’s a fresh look constructed by an original mind, a woman who
is grappling with real life problems worldwide and who is pragmatic and
out-of-the-box in seeing where entry points for change can be made.
But it isn’t an all-encompassing theory. It isn’t a Das Capital to set
an agenda for economic research and idealistic policy wonks for a
hundred years. That may be just as well, for pragmatic compassion and
cooperative innovation with no pre-set limits may be just what we need.

By Chris Lombardi

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