"Ben Stein says the people who were snubbed on Oscar night weren't the stars who were passed over for Academy Awards, but American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conservative humorist, writer and political pundit said movie stars and film industry professionals failed to highlight the sacrifices of soldiers during the awards ceremony on March 5. "Not one prayer or moment of silence for those who have given their lives," Stein said, speaking Thursday at a Republican Party fundraising dinner."

-- Associated Press, Sat. March 18, 2006

Dear Ben:

Hi. We've never met. But you seem like a nice, smart guy – at least, you did on your game show. (Did you quit, or did that get cancelled? Congratulations or I'm sorry, by the way. …) Sorry I didn't write earlier; you know: Tax time. Uh, anyhow, please indulge me in a brief fantasy: It's some parallel universe. Not, like, Man in the High Tower parallel, but more of a Gwyenneth-Paltrow-gets-to-live parallel; a little different from our space-time. Maybe we've got Samuel L. Jackson on the $20 instead of Andrew Jackson, and Cronenberg didn't pass on directing Basic Instinct 2. Minor differences. In that universe, subtly different from our own, one of Hollywood's biggest stars – perhaps Tom Hanks; maybe Bruce Willis; possibly Denzel Washington or Julia Roberts (and hey, they all had movies coming up; they could have used the face-time) – stepped onto the stage of the Kodak theater with the lights muted and Bill Conti's orchestra quiet and asked for a moment of silence in honor of America's troops serving in peril abroad, and the fallen men and women who now rest in graves all across America. They would have done so sincerely; they would have used the plain-spoken sort of language one hopes will be heard on occasions like that; there may have even been a mention of God, or a prayer. And after a minute, they would have raised their heads and said something simple – "Thank you, and God bless America." The camera would then have cut to Jon Stewart, who's smart enough to take that kind of thing seriously and would have then found a deft way to segue to a musical number, the next clip, the next award.