Some thoughts on the deaths of pop stars

I was never a fan of Farrah Fawcett, but I admired the way she handled the ugly disease that ultimately killed her.  She took it out of the hands of the paparazzi and the tabloids and told us her story, her way.  It was refreshing, even if tragic and hard to watch. 

The night before she died, I startled awake at around 3:00 a.m. and started crying for Farrah.  I still don’t know why.  I do these things now and then; the last time was a few years back when I had a vivid dream that a friend of the family committed suicide by shooting himself  in the head.  The next morning I drove by his house and actually found police cars all around and his body being carried out.  He did not kill himself, but he had in fact died of a stroke after not taking his heart medication for a few weeks.  I was haunted by this for months.

And so I was in a bit of a fog about Farrah on Thursday last when someone at work came up to me and said that Michael Jackson was dead.  At first, I thought it was a joke — ah-HA! Michael, who was more a victim of the tabloids than Farrah, didn’t want to be upstaged and so let out this rumor about his own demise.  But after hearing it several more times I realized it must be true.  And Farrah, and Ed McMahon a few days before, were both virtually forgotten in all the hubbub about Michael.  In death, unfortunately, it seems that Michael will continue to be as circus-like as he was in life.  Right now, for instance, no one has any idea why he died, and that’s unlikely to change for several weeks.  During that time, I expect the circus to do great business.

I have no particular thoughts about any of last week’s dead, except that I feel for all of their families and children.  It’s just that Michael’s death in particular — or rather, the inflated eulogies that followed from around the world — brought to mind other sudden deaths of the past that many may consider to be similar.  But they aren’t.

I can vividly remember several: John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King.  Those were the ones we should truly never forget; each had made a difference in our lives, if only psychologically.

Then came the pop superstars: Elvis, John Lennon, Princess Diana.  (These are people who were stars in the U.S.; I know that other areas of the world have suffered sudden losses that were equally as shocking — Ayrton Senna and Steve Irwin come to mind here.)

A week ago, if you had asked me if Michael Jackson were in the same category as these folks, I would have scoffed for much the same reason that I would never place Fawcett in that category: both were moments in time, and that time had passed.  But now I don’t dare. 

You have to look at it objectively, though: Michael’s career, like Farrah’s, had predictably faded after his moment passed.  But unlike her (an aging beauty is still, even in this day and age, never anything but past-it tabloid fodder), he had the opportunity to maintain respect, and blew it.  The U.S. finally turned its back on Michael after the allegations of pedophilia.  It was just too much after all the other weirdness that had surrounded him for years.  The rest of the world, probably just to prove we were bad people, embraced him with ferocity even if a lot of them couldn’t explain why, and eventually some of them came to wonder if we may have been right about Michael.

But now, all of a sudden, the entire world is reeling and even the U.S. is awash in life-long diehard Michael fans.  Right.  Sure. 

He was great once.  And so were the rest I mentioned, but with a difference: they had all come to represent something much greater than who they actually were.  And at the time of their deaths, most of them had faded just like Jackson.  But two didn’t need comebacks (Elvis and Princess Diana), as their places in history were assured: by the time he died, Elvis was no longer so much a human being as an era; Diana was a world-famous princess and humanitarian, as well as an eternal cover girl and real-life romance novel heroine.  (Moreover, she was the one who cut the British royal family down to size.)

The other two were planning comebacks: Lennon, whose behavior had been almost as bizarre as Jackson’s, and Jackson himself.  But Lennon had the Beatle monument — however much he hated it — to shield him, and when he was murdered it came soon enough on the heels of the Fab Four’s breakup (about 11 years) that millions were struck by the poignancy of the first death among the four famous young Beatles who had forever altered the music world, and much of the rest of the world, in the 1960’s.  Jackson, on the other hand, had nothing to fall back on (not even the Jackson 5, as some have erroneously tried to hint in the last few days).  He had a brief period of solo superstardom in the 1980’s, much as Fawcett had her year in the sun in 1977 or so.  That was it.  And it wasn’t enough.  He should have been working his way toward being the Grand Old Man of song and dance, but instead he drifted off and became a circus act. 

Which is to say that I don’t understand what the overwhelming public outpouring of grief is about.  It’s so incredible that even that ubiquitous grandstander Jesse Jackson instantly saw a photo opportunity here.  When he gets involved, you know it’s become a circus with loads of photographers and press around.  Why?

What is really important in this death are the children Michael left behind, and the parents who now have to deal with the pain of outliving a child, and the brothers and sisters who now have one less among them.  To the rest of us, his death is either merely a marker in time, or not.  I’ll probably never forget being at work, ruminating about Farrah Fawcett when I heard about it.

But is my life forever altered?  No.  And yours probably isn’t, either.

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An army of Ignoramuses

See this to learn what the title is referring to (except that they don’t mention Karen Ignoramus here):

and this (which discusses the absolute truth that I wish were mentioned more often):

The New Political Correctness, Weatherwise

According to some comments I just read on the Farmers Almanac page, if you say we are in a period of “global warming,” then you are being controlled by people who want to tax you and take away your freedom.  If you believe we’re going into an ice age, then you’re an All American independent gun-toting beer swiggin’ good ol’ boy.  Even if you’re a girl. 

Actually to harbor a fierce loyalty to a weather theory of the 1970’s to justify rejecting a theory of the early 2000’s makes you nothing but an idiot.  An approaching ice age renders you no more independent of the government than does any “global warming” ideology.  Both can be used to “control” people. 

Leaving aside some recent observations about sun cycles, there are some hard facts that we here on earth can control if we aren’t wasting our own energy inventing ways to deny them: there are now about 6 billion people in the world using up resources.  We do not know if the Earth was meant to support all these bodies.  Certainly no earthly ecomony has managed it. 

The only hard truth is that we cannot have this many humans in the world without affecting our environment.  Therefore, something about the environment is changing, and we must change in order to adapt — or else, eventually, suffer a loss of quality of life (and please don’t tell me that breathing dinosaur-fuel fumes has made you a free man), or else die.

We need food and we need to keep ourselves warm or cold, as our prevailing climate dictates.  For this, we need fuel — lots of fuel if you’re talking about supporting a world population that continues to climb out of control.  Fuel sources change over time, according to availability.  Some of them have a more profound impact on the environment than others.  Adaptation is part of the game.  Always has been.  Civilizations that have relentlessly clung to a past that no longer works, no longer exist after a while.

I don’t know whether the current weather gyrations mean “global warming” or “ice age.”  I’m not a scientist; to me the changes only mean inevitable change due to outside pressures.  Goodness knows that scientists seem to be befuddled and sometimes too quick to announce that a certain leaf falling three days too early in a remote section of Africa means we’re all about to ignite.  (No such announcement has been made, but you may catch the drift of what I’m saying).  The term “global warming” has now become so ubiquitous that even when we are freezing, we’re told that it’s because of global warming.  That sort of thing tends to confuse the wingnuts and set them into orbit, shouting, “political correct!  bad!  bad!”

And now they’re fighting back by switching their loyalties to that fond ’70’s theory of a new ice age, which as I said makes no sense whatsoever.

If you are a true independent, I’d say you are wary of either theory, but mindful that things cannot continue as they have been.  But being a true independent, I’m wary of telling anyone what to think.  Apparently, getting all your info from Chicken-Little scientists makes you a liberal and getting all your info from spam e-mails makes you a conservative.  I’m happy to be getting my info from neither of them.

Note to Letterman: that was stupid anyway.

David Letterman seems to have a thing for pretty young (adult) things.  That’s okay; lots of middle-aged guys seem to get this idea that all they need is a sweet pretty young thing that they can train to wait on them hand and foot, and give them lots of sex, even though they themselves may no longer be able to keep up with having lots of sex, and everything will be just dandy.  It’s been going on forever, and nowadays some middle-aged women are starting to get delusional like that as well.

Where I draw the line, however, is making sexual remarks about 14-year-olds.  EDIT: it’s now apparent that the Palin camp chose to misinterpret what Letterman said and are now getting maximum mileage out of it by hinting that Letterman is a pedophile.  Turns out he was talking about their 18-year-old rather than their 14-year-old.  I object anyway; the remark was tasteless.  But I am not surprised that the Palins are exploiting the situation, which is the point of this post. 

The world is about Sarah Palin, after all, isn’t it.  Poor Sarah!  Those mean liberals are picking on her!!!  Let’s boycott Letterman’s sponsors!  That’ll show ’em!!!!  Sarah’s daughter will soon be forgotten in the hubub.  All that will matter is sticking it to those all-powerful liberals, as if they didn’t have the bullet-proof Fat Man to do that for them already, or maybe Weiner, or maybe one of a host of other right-wing whackjob radio jaws who seem to say whatever they want to say without getting into much trouble, even though Weiner keeps trying to invent trouble for himself.

I do honestly object to sexualizing and abusing young girls.  This is not a recent invention; I’ve said it here before.  It’s also happened before.  Remember Chelsea Clinton?

Not many of the remarks directed at Chelsea by the Republicans were so overtly sexual in nature, but they were cruel, abusive and sexist nonetheless.  Consider this one:

“Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.”

Source?  John McCain, 1998.  Granted, Clinton was 18 at the time, but remarks of this nature had been made about her since the beginning of her father’s presidency.  Based on crap like that, and the fact that no Republican at the time ever suffered much, or at all, for making remarks like that, I could advocate that David Letterman not be censured for making offensive remarks about Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter.  Let them fight crap with crap for a change.  To their credit, Democrats have been doing that lately.  But enough is enough.  Let’s leave the kids out of it.  All issues of morality aside, the simple fact is that they didn’t ask to be born into all this.

If nothing else, don’t give Sarah Palin any more excuses to grab publicity.  Her 15 minutes were up months ago, but she seems not to have gotten the news, much the same as she has not realized that thinking she can see Russia from her backyard does not make her a stateswoman.  And so what we’re dealing with now is hopefully John McCain’s last cruel joke: Palin herself.  Over and over and over.  When idiots like Letterman make stupid remarks like that she pops up yet again, just like Whack-a-Mole.  Traps don’t work, rubber mallets don’t work, the computer mouse doesn’t even work.  She just won’t go away.

So who do you think you are, David Letterman — Rush Limbaugh?  Only he can spew crap like this and get away unscathed, and that’s only because the members of the Republican Party – some of whom have now actually recently begun to get in trouble for making remarks like that — are afraid of him and his army of delusionals, who do not seem get in real trouble for anything at all.  You are merely among the rest of us who don’t enjoy that protection.  And now, because of you, we have Sarah Palin grabbing as many headlines as she can once again and the wingnuts are in orbit once again. 

Enough.  David Letterman, to you I give the Stupid of the Day award.