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Throw a tent over this sad, overblown circus

Welcome to the big top.

You can practically hear the organ cranking its perpetually cheery tune and see the clowns spilling out of the Volkswagen.

For a solid week, it's been all Anna Nicole Smith, all the time on cable news outlets, gossip pages and entertainment blogs. This unchecked national obsession has sunk deeper and deeper into farce territory with each screaming "headline."

Who is the baby's daddy? What was in her fridge? How will the battle over her fortune end?

Why has this woman who — for the most part — was a go-to punch line during her life, become an around-the-clock news story after her death?

Have we all just completely lost our minds?

As a person who traffics in the delightful distraction we call pop culture, I am in no way immune to this phenomena. I've read the stories, each more salacious than the next. I've pondered the infamous "Death Fridge" as Jon Stewart so aptly called it (Methadone and Slim Fast, now that's good eating).

But after Day Two, my stomach began to turn. By Day Four, I had no appetite at all.

This is my plea: Make it stop.

The death of Anna Nicole Smith is not a national tragedy. For her family and loved ones, it is — of course — a tragedy. Her life was a spectacle and we all gawked at the impending train wreck. Her death is a sad end to a sad story.

For all her shortcomings, Anna Nicole never had a mean edge to her public persona. She was what she was, and until recently, that was an easy laugh and a sexy mess. With her never-ending legal wranglings, the death of her son and the battle over her newborn's true father, her life took a more tragic turn.

But I never would have expected this media firestorm. A couple of tributes? Sure. A retrospective montage (let's face it, the woman made for good TV)? Certainly. Some tasteless and snarky late-night jokes at her expense? Sadly, yes.

But this? This is just absolutely nuts.

Do we have nothing better to talk about? What happened to that crazy astronaut lady with the diapers. Diapers, people, remember diapers?

And, oh yeah, the war, Iran, global warming, the 2008 presidential race, the national debt, corporate malfeasance, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and world hunger.

Sure, it's always fun when the circus comes to town. But, you should never stay too long for fear the circus might run away with you.

Elsewhere around the Scene:

Modesto Area Music Association Award winner Transport returns to play after a nearly nine-month absence from the local stage.

The alternative rock band is back with new members — lead guitarist Aaron Wilson and drummer Garrit Mcguire.

Catch Transport twice on Thursday — first at 7 a.m. on B93.1 FM talk show "The Morning Buzz" and then at 7 p.m. at the Fat Cat Music House & Lounge.

The Fat Cat show will feature Los Angeles band Invisibleland and area acts Not for Nothing, Keith Cole featuring Travis Vick and Fairway. Tickets are $6.

Transport also is in a nationwide contest to play the South by Southwest music festival. Two bands will be picked to play SXSW out of the top 50 in the contest. Visit www.reverbnation.com/ transport. The contest ends Tuesday.

For more information, visit www.myspace.com/transport....

In movie news, the King-Kennedy Memorial Center presents Modesto's first Black Film Festival on Saturday.

The event is a celebration of Black History Month.

Showing will be "Sankofa," "Ethnic Notions," "A Century of Black Cinema," "Miss Evers' Boys," "There Was Always Sun Shining Someplace," "Freedom's Song," "Black Like Me" and "That's Black Entertainment."

Screenings will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free. Call 577-5355....

For the kids, check out the State Theatre's ongoing Family Film Series.

Steven Spielberg's family favorite "E.T." will screen at 1 p.m. Sunday. Children under 12 get free admission (accompanied by a paid adult) courtesy of Doctors Medical Center. Call 527-4697....

Modesto Junior College's Civic Engagement Spring Film Series continues Thursday with the anti-corporate documentary "The Yes Men."

The film will screen at 7 p.m. in MJC Forum 110, 435 College Ave. Admission is free....

And finally, take a trip to Calaveras County for Presidents Weekend.

The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance invites the public to sample the best the county has to offer Saturday and Sunday. Nineteen wineries will participate, offering free tastings, foods and music. Call 736-6722.

Bee entertainment writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at 578-2284 or mrowland@modbee.com. Read her blog SceneIt at thehive.modbee.com/sceneit.

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