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I look as good as I feel 

The trouble with real life is that you never quite look the way you think you should. Either you don’t have enough hair, or you have too much belly, or your lips aren’t full enough, or your fingers are too stubby. You could be too short, or too tall, or your privates might not compare with everybody else’s down at the gym.

What’s worse is when other people think that you never quite look the way they think you should. So when they start to make fun of you, just remember the old saying: The guy is always longer at the other end of the shower. Or is it something about the other side of fences and grass being greener?

Either way, the folks at Newsweek did some tinkering of their own to make real life look the way they thought real life should look when they cut off Martha Stewart’s head and stuck it on somebody else’s body for their most recent cover — not literally of course, that would be too messy and expensive. Trust me, I know.

Instead of using scalpels and stitches, the Newsweek artists used the magic of computers and the technology of imagination to position Martha’s laughing head on top of a lean, post-prison body peeking through a pair of curtains. She looks trim and slightly deranged and pretty much normal.

The top folks at the magazine said they think everyone will know that the photo isn’t meant to be really real, especially since Martha’s still in jail, so the only curtains she could be poking around in would have to be the ones she made to decorate her cell. Besides, the fine print on page 3 says the cover is a photo illustration, and they credit the guy who took the head shot. And a different picture of Martha on that same page makes her look a bit dumpier, so anyone should theoretically be able to spot the fake.

But a critic or two has blasted the magazine for playing Dr. Frankenstein, which, I think we all know, never turns out good in the end. Someone always winds up in a flaming windmill surrounded by villagers with pitchforks. Trust me, I know.

While the damage from such a harmless little stunt may seem negligible to the average dumb magazine reader, journalists go crazy when stuff like this happens. They start throwing around words like “ethics� and “truth,� and asking where the madness will end. First we’re transplanting celebrity heads, then we’re erasing people out of pictures we didn’t want them in in the first place, creating our own Big Brother revisionist history, and hey, while we’re at it, let’s give ourselves another couple inches below the waistline.

National Geographic got in trouble for scooting the pyramids around to fit them all on one of its covers a few years back. People accused Time magazine of making OJ Simpson blacker on one of its covers, because black means evil, so darker black must mean darker evil, right? That’s where made-up reality gets really ugly. Really.

On the other end of the spectrum, Michael Jackson has been making himself whiter, though he’s managed to do it in real life, not just in pictures.

Anything’s possible for someone who virtually owned the Beatles and all the Beatles’ firstborn children and still went bankrupt.

He’s also managed to get himself into more trouble, which wouldn’t seem possible, until you remember that anything’s possible for someone who virtually owned the Beatles and all the Beatles’ firstborn children and still went bankrupt.

At the end of February, while Newsweek editors were still deciding whether to chop of Martha Stewart’s head for real or just in Photoshop, Michael was getting out of showing up in court for his child-molestation trial in Santa Maria by exhibiting flu-like symptoms and getting taken to the hospital.

To make room for the courtroom-bound pop star, Marian Medical Center employees apparently pulled a patient out of a large room and shoved her into a smaller one. Maria Elena Ortiz says that her mom was that patient, and that her mom was also alive until the hospital started playing musical gurneys to the tune of “Bad.� The family told the nation via “Good Morning America� that Manuela Gomez Ruiz, who had been admitted for a heart attack, died after being scooted around like a National Geographic pyramid and suffering two more heart attacks for the sake of a puking superstar.

Michael’s publicist, Raymone Bain, is saying that the claim is absurd, and even if the claim isn’t absurd, the whole mess certainly isn’t Michael’s fault, because he was a patient with flu-like symptoms just like anyone other patient with flu-like symptoms, which, if you read between the lines, means it was all the hospital’s fault.

The hospital is staying tight-lipped in a sort of patient-privacy way, but mentioned that it’s confident all its patients get good care, which, if you read between the lines, means the hospital is not totally positive about that care, so any problems must be the fault of some underling who betrayed the higher-ups’ standards. And confidence. Really.

Before I call it quits for another week, which brings me another week closer to calling it quits for good, I’d like to extend a great big “welcome back� to Rep. Lois Capps, who stopped in to peek around San Luis County and oppose President Bush’s Social Security changes a few days ago. It’s been a long time, Lois. Don’t be such a stranger.

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