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Tom Cruise fans—those who read the gossip mags these days with paper bags over their heads—must wonder, Why does Tom do it? Why pounce on Oprah’s sofa? Why pooh-pooh post-partum depression? Why placenta? Why does he insist on announcing that the birth of his child was “very spiritual”?

Okay, the last of these is the least of his recent embarassments, but it’s one that rallied me to Cruise’s defense. I had a twinge when the prankster squirted Tom in the face with a water gun shaped like a microphone, but I tilted when Tom’s claim about “spiritual” childbirth popped up in nearly every headline about his post-partum chat with ABC’s “20/20”; the media is either proud of Tom’s perceptive description of watching childbirth or wants his comment entered as another data point that he’s gone off his nut. I suspect the latter.

Since his cringe-inducing performance on “Oprah,” we’re all to understand that Tom has taken permanent leave of his senses or is intolerably self-obsessed. “Is there any experience that isn’t totally intense and utterly incredible with this man?” wrote one columnist. Isn’t that, though, just about the best definition available of “spiritual”? The same question, asked about the Dalai Lama, would come off as praise.

Similarly, instead of using Oprah’s sofa as a trampoline, should Tom have mewled that Kat is his best friend? Okay, Tom could tone down the kooky pseudo-psychiatry and lay off the placenta. Or better yet, take some acting roles that measure up to his “private” weirdness. Artists are supposed to revolt us, challenge us, be rash and generally be in the vanguard. So I say, Take pride, Tom fans. You have nothing to lose but your bags.

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