What's in a Name? A Face? A Sexual Orientation? Recent developments raise questions about how appearances matter: A former pro basketball player makes his sexual orientation public, several Chicagoans switch to Irish names for political advantage and Anna Nicole Smith's death makes some question how they lampooned her life.

What's in a Name? A Face? A Sexual Orientation?

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Some final notes from the week's news.

John Amaechi, the former center of the Utah Jazz, announced that he is gay. Mr. Amaechi, who is retired and runs a youth basketball foundation back home in Manchester, England, has a book coming out called "Man in the Middle."

I like what the philosopher and former basketball star Sir Charles Barkley said this week when reporters told him that a man he used to play against was gay. Mr. Barkley said, so?

In Chicago, where politics, after last week's Super Bowl, is the major contact sport, ethnic conversions may be more difficult. The governor signed a law required candidates who change their names within three years to add a line saying formerly known as. The law was passed after several candidates for Cook County judge suddenly sprouted Irish names.

Frederick S. Rhine(ph) changed his name to Patrick Michael O'Brien(ph); Edwin Corb(ph) took his wife's family name to become Edwin Flanagan(ph); Richard Joseph Owens took his mother's family name to become Richard O'Connell Owens(ph); and Bonnie McGrath(ph), whom you think would feel unassailably Hibernian, decided to gild the shamrock by borrowing a middle name from a friend to become Bonnie Fitzgerald McGrath.

My middle name is Sullivan. Nice to know when I run out of job prospects, I can run for Cook County judge. Do the people in Cook County think that their senator, who's running for president, is named Barack O'Bama?

And finally, you know what I like even less than the excess coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's untimely death and circus speculations about the paternity of her child? All the smug jokes that assumed she was dumb because she was a full-figured blonde, or a callous, calculating fortune hunter because she married a wealthy man 63 years her senior.

People who think they are too smart for stereotypes placed all kinds on her. Should Anna Nicole Smith have tried to become a rocket scientist just to shatter their self-righteous assumptions?

She was a tall, lusty, small-town Texas siren of a girl who got married and had a son by the time she was 16. She worked in a roadside strip club, not a spot where should could calculate to meet a man like J. Howard Marshall, who, by the way, no stereotypical Texas oil tycoon. He was a Philadelphia lawyer who taught at Yale Law and drafted America's energy policies as a member of Franklin Roosevelt's wartime cabinet.

Perhaps we should be humble about judging someone's life from appearances. But it seems that Anna Nicole Smith loved her son, who died recently, loved her new baby, and tried to play the hand that nature gave her. Sometimes the only right thing to say is rest in peace.

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