Two things of note. First, for the writers, a wonderful essay by James Lee Burke in today's New York Times. "I know of no finer life than that of a fiction writer. You need only a notebook and a pencil and a belief in that quiet voice that dwells inside you in order to create a book that is truly wonderful."

Second, and on a decidedly low-culture note: Joe Millionaire, the new reality TV show on (where else?) Fox, where a bunch of bachelorettes cross the Atlantic to win the heart of the heir to a fifty-million-dollar fortune. Except -- surprise! -- he's really more of an average Joe, who earns $19K a year as a construction worker.

"In a way, we're ripping the mask off the people (who sign up for shows like 'The Bachelor')," Fox reality programming chief Mike Darnell told Daily Variety. "We find out whether they're really doing this for love."

Except....well, does Darnell really think anyone who did "The Bachelor" was really doing it for love? I always figured that anyone who'd do any kind of reality TV show, whether it's The Bachelor or Survivor or my personal favorite The Amazing Race (and you are all watching, right? Right?) was in it for fame first, with love and/or money as a distant runner-up.

Whether or not you land a small-screen career after (and certainly the track records of the former Survivors and Real Worlders don't offer much encouragement -- a local news gig here, a radio show there), for one season, the Alexes and Amandas and Aarons and Helenes of the world are bonafide, absolute, undeniable TV stars -- just like the people they used to tune in and watch on Thursday nights.

And given the unfortunate precedent of Darnell's earlier baby "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire," and the way the last two Bachelors have unfolded (proposal, long-distance "dating," public avowals of true love with no wedding date in sight), it seems unlikely that any woman would go into this contest thinking she'd actually have to get hitched. If the "winner" is smart, she'll just do like Helene did -- smile pretty, coo over the ring, tell the entertainment reporters that he's the guy for you even if we can't buy you diamonds and furs (or even diamonique and Old Navy fleece), then hightail it back home and wait for the inevitable offer from Playboy.

Jen