Showing posts with label celebrities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label celebrities. Show all posts

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A goddamned shame

To be sure, after the shock of Whitney Houston's death wanes a bit and we can again feel the chill in the air and the heat emanating from the desk lamp, a professional sourpuss or two will attempt a cultural post-mortem on the event, excoriating media commentaries and fan reaction alike for reducing the singer's abrupt finale as "a tragedy" and "a shame" or ". There but for the grace of God go I..." The upshot of the objection will be that the gadfly (or two) loathes clichés and platitudes and that it's pathetic all we can do is mutter "ain't it a shame”, tsk-tsking instead of DOING SOMETHING!! Fuck those guys.

The irrefutable fact is that Houston's death is a shame and it is a tragedy. Let's be more emphatic: it's a goddamned shame and a goddamned tragedy. There is nothing else you can call the early death, brought on, no doubt, by a long-term addiction to crack cocaine and other chronic party favors, of someone as gifted as the suddenly deceased Whitney Houston. Hers was a voice that was, when all is said and the note cards are shuffled and rubber banded together, an instrument that was singular in her heyday, a voice that remains singular years after that day has passed, and will likely be one of those voices fans, old and new, and writers will refer to in glowing terms no less than what's happened to Frank Sinatra's reputation as a vocalist. Sinatra was a punk and a sociopath much of his life, but his voice and his songs made the stream of personal offenses forgivable ; Whitney was a train wreck for years who couldn't hide the effects of a drug habit, but her voice and her material will be enough, I suspect, for the lot of us to turn up the volume on her tunes when they play. Everything else that happened will be as if nothing happened at all.

The best one can do is hope that her talent, amply represented on her albums and hits, will outlive the infamy of her last decade or so, a time of stupid, inane, inexplicably moronic behavior driven by drugs, a period where the brilliant and beautiful Whitney was turned one of the least appealing people to make the gossip programs; she became less appealing than chewed pizza crust. Her death is a shame and the horror of it all is that there is NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT! Those who obsessed with celebrity culture and those obsessed with grousing the masses lack of more profound reaction have the momentary wish that they, whoever "they" happen to be, should pass laws against these terrible things, that being brilliant people dying "before their time”, and the banality of the collective opinion about celebrities that unbelievably few of us have met, let alone know anything about besides what's allowed on a press release.

My wish would be for us to turn off our television and computers for a day and instead take a walk along the beach, with a book, a pair of sunglasses, a nice box lunch, grateful that this day, this hour, this minute that we are alive with the full of our senses are working just fine, that we are engaged with a world that is phenomenal even without the metaphors we try to assign it, that we are not this day, this hour, this minute dropping dead from whatever is waiting for us and which we'll meet eventually, date and time undisclosed.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

notes on a dead horse or two

More than ever, I believe The Fountainhead, to be a dangerous book. This may worry a point already mulled over here, but one cannot just pass-off this book's implicit assertion that mass destruction is justified in the name of "higher values" whose substance supposedly overrides the need to respect and protect human life. It is only irrational romanticism and literary convenience that Rand softens Roark's destruction with an empty structure.  Roark is the hero of all those ruggedly individualist libertarians whose opinions sound as oddly uniform as Comuntist Party USA position paper, but shed of the that odious veil, he's pretty much the prototype of the perplexed goons and gangsters whose lives are committed to making the world notice them by the most miserable means available. 

I've little problem with "enlightened self interest", a general concept where one pursues their own agenda with it in mind that their goal is not just to fulfil their own wants and needs but also benefit others in doing so. One "does well by doing good" when they realize that their rights are coherent and effectively applicable in larger social and cultural contexts. 

Rand lops off the "enlightened" part and effectively tries to make an intellectual defense for adults, males for the most part, to act like three years olds and essentially demand that the world bow to their self-defined genius and all the pulverizing engineering it takes for said genius to be foisted on the community. It's a childish view, the mewling of King Baby, and it is, frankly, solipsistic to a degree that approaches a species of mental illness. 
The existence of God can neither be proven nor proven in absolute terms, and is that belief in either proposition requires an act of faith, faith being a firm belief in something for which there is no proof . The acts of faith, in William James' estimation in his writing in Varieties of Religious Experience, is the relevant quality to watch; if the belief and the dictates the faith espouse result in helping its membership adjust, adapt and find purpose in a world that subjects them to all sorts of catastrophies and seeming cruelties, then that is reason enough . The existence or non-existence of God comes out of the equation: we look at the results of the faith, and see how it's contributed to the General Good; the description and standard can apply to believer and atheist alike.

Noted pop musicians in twelve step meetings often seem bursting at the seams to tell other members what it is they do and what their latest projects are. It's a testimony to most of them that they contain the impulse to brag and speak in a general way. Bill Wilson had the same dilemma, in terms of keeping his vanity in check, and wrote about in in both the book Alcoholics Anonymous and The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions. It was a fitting thing for me to read that the man who warned against being the AA big shot had to live up to his own advice.

Eric Clapton's celebrity doubtlessly shields him from any blow back concerning his well publicized battles with booze and the needle , mostly because the public is quick to forgive those who've gone astray but who have gone to well-publicized lengths to clean up their side of the street. We see the same thing happening with Robert Downey, a repeat screw up and jailbird who a few years ago just made it a point to work as much as he could, prove himself reliable, bondable, professional. It paid off, as he more or less owned last summer's box office. In their cases, celebrity might work as a sufficient substitute for the lack of anonymity, but it comes down, again, to whether the famed addict or alkie has willingness to change their lives. Talent figures into it as well; fans just want Clapton to play blues guitar and prefer to see Downey peform well in good roles, and are willing to suspend their misgivings over their bad habits provided the entertainers do just that, entertain.