“We’re all on the web, weighing various kinds of data we get — eBay listings, blog posts, Craigslist solicitations — and trying to read between some pixels, and connect others,” writes N.Y. Times reporter Virginia Heffernan. Her topic is a strange mass compulsion to indulge in dispassionate visual dissection of celebrities, which even sophisticated journalists are prey to. Not something akin to fan behavior, but obsession with a white lab coat — a kind of coldly analytical scientific curiosity.

“I don’t expect we’ll break any big news reading PerezHilton.com,” she explains. “But maybe we’re not entirely wasting our time; we’re practicing interpreting images from the new close-range, high-def magazines and websites.
“In any case the danse macabre that stars now do with the paparazzi, who appear to lurk everywhere, must be logistically maddening and emotionally draining. Every trip to the grocery store is a performance piece; every day at the beach is a soft-porn movie.
What’s more the consumers of the resulting plays, movies, video projects and photographs — that’s us — are not primarily looking to be entertained or transported. We’re just looking for data, more and more data, the more raw the better.
“Someday we may need nothing but zeros and ones to give our prognostications. And then we really won’t need the star herself. But for now a young star is in a strange place. To become a specimen, a lab slide, a piece of data: surely this is not what people dream of when they quit high school, take singing lessons and move to Hollywood.”
Of all the sites she mentions, I like idontlikeyouinthatway the best. All the celeb gossip-and-photo sites are cruel and catty, but this one’s a little more so. The way it dismisses Cameron Diaz is beyond savage; it’s kind of sociopathic.