Pink surrounded, tragically

A few days ago, possibly prompted by an old song I’d heard somewhere, I thought about Gordon Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip, and how he was still around, more than a year after the band had completed their farewell tour due to Downie’s aggressive, untreatable brain cancer. I admired his resilience against what sounded like imminent death.

Today that death finally arrived and the way he spent this past year left me feeling not sad, but strangely happy at how he made his time–cut terribly short–truly count. He lived his life well, right up to the end.

I only ever bought one Tragically Hip album, Fully Completely (which is a great collection of songs) but there is no denying their impact on the Canadian cultural landscape. Just look at today’s iTunes Top 10 albums:

Death, as always, is a great way to boost sales.

Farewell, Gordon. May your light burn bright wherever you are.

Of mortality and David Bowie

David Bowie died today at the age of 69. He had been fighting cancer–unknown to most–for about 18 months before finally succumbing. His latest and final album, Blackstar, was released just three days ago.

It’s currently #1 on the Canadian iTunes store. Five of his other albums are in the top ten.

Dying is always a great boost to a career.

I liked Bowie’s music. I only own two of his albums but have always appreciated his artistry and the way he forged his own unique musical identity. His legacy as a brilliant performer is assured.

At the same time I admit that I found some of his work, like that of Tin Machine, wholly unappealing. I was never a huge fan of grunge (I like a little edge in my music, but only a little) and Tin Machine was essentially grunge before it had a label.

But that’s just personal taste. Bowie never did anything wrong. He did what he wanted and what he wanted was to explore musical landscapes in ways that were always interesting and sometimes catchy as all get-out.

His death makes me feel sad in that he-was-a-good-guy-who-also-happened-to-be-a-celebrity way, but it also makes me realize that growing older is defined so much by what we lose–from the superficial, like the hair on our heads and the smooth skin of our faces, to the substantial–drifting apart from long-time friends, sometimes for reasons no one can say, to the loss of those we love to death. Our culture creates and celebrates pop icons and as the years pass I watch as death claims more and more of the ones I grew up with, people who did not seem immortal, exactly, but somehow eternal.

Bowie was like that. Seeing cancer claim him reminds me–us–that our time as physical bodies is limited.

So now, while we can, let’s dance.

Newspaper editors gotta have fun, too

This composition is not accidental.

The mgic, the romance, the bullets

My personal favorite is from the West Hawaii Today, as seen in this this Poynter article:

West Hawaii Daily riverdancing and bullets
West Hawaii Daily: riverdancing, commando raids

The secondary headline makes it look like Bin Laden was taken out by a plucky group of riverdancers who just kept trying till they got ‘im. Maybe in the musical adaptation that’s how it will be.

This just in: Michael Jackson is still dead

Wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson’s death continues unabated while Farrah Fawcett’s demise slides off the main page. I bet the news people are kind of relieved because who wants to say “anal cancer” on the air? Wolf Blitzer probably giggles every time he says it, that jerk.

Here is an exclusive news clip that was linked to me by my pal jackrabbit, who has his pulse on celebrity news like some guy that holds onto something and won’t let go, even if you pull really hard:

Along these lines, I watched a bit of CNN’s live feed yesterday (I am sans cable, so no TV for me) and to fill in the airtime, they started reading viewer comments. “This is from Christy. Christy says ‘I am so sad!'” Later they needed to fill more airtime and they returned to the viewer comments. Curiously, they chose Christy’s again. I guess her sadness was so profound it had to be shared repeatedly. I flipped over briefly to ABC News’ live feed and their approach was a bit different. They just let the camera roll while nothing was happening. The reporter was milling about, adjusting her hair, chatting to people off-camera, all of it live and in pseudo high-def. This is bleeding edge stuff, folks. It’s like watching the future happen.

And as much as I mock it, I’m still going to link to a CNN story on Jackson’s death temporarily crippling the Internet. And I quote from said link:

Twitter crashed as users saw multiple “fail whales” — the illustrations the site uses as error messages — user FoieGrasie posting, “Irony: The protesters in Iran using twitter as com are unable to get online because of all the posts of ‘Michael Jackson RIP.’ Well done.”

MSNBC had comments from celebrities and other notables, including Nelson Mandela and Hugo Chavez (!) who may have had the best observation of all: Yeah, it’s sad but man, you guys are just going on way too much about it. Note that the media frames Chavez as a bad guy, so it’s okay to dismiss anything he says (and he does often say the darndest things). Hang in there, Christy!

We’ll always have Saturn 3 and The Wiz

Today saw the strange spectacle of a celebrity death getting overshadowed by another celebrity death.

Farrah Fawcett, of “Charlie’s Angels” and the best-selling poster of all-time fame died today at age 62 after battling anal cancer for several years. There’s two words that should never go together: anal cancer. Her death was not unexpected, as her health had been getting much worse lately, but it is still sad to look at the insanely toothy grin on that poster and contrast it to how painful her last days must have been.

But the memorials for Farrah were just barely getting started when word came in that Michael Jackson had suffered cardiac arrest. Not long after several media outlets were stating he had died and later in the afternoon it was confirmed by members of his family. He was 50. This is probably the biggest celebrity death since Princess Diana died in 1997 and I’m expecting saturation coverage to go on for some days. Only a major disaster (natural or man-made) can bump the story right now, which is curious when you think about it. After all, he’s dead and that’s not going to change. I don’t think the coverage will be as excessive as it was with Diana’s because the media is a lot more fragmented these days and attention spans seem that much shorter. A lot of the “coverage” will effectively go unseen, too, by being posted to Facebook or Tweeter or blogs (like this one). There’s also a bit of a difference in terms of where each person was at when they died — Diana was freshly divorced, only 37 and was still riding high in the public eye. Jackson, on the other hand, was plagued by health issues, exhibited increasingly eccentric behavior, fought off charges of child molestation and had a career that stalled out nearly a decade earlier. He was, in fact, only weeks away from a big “comeback” tour that was to also be his last.

That said, there is no denying his musical legacy. Thriller was insanely popular (I didn’t buy it because I was going through that “I’m a teen, anything popular must be crap and I shall shun it!” phase) and for much of the 80s he really was the biggest pop star. But man, what a slide after that. Still, 50 is awfully young to go and who knows what he might have done musically if he had pulled off the tour.

And as usual, dying is a great way to boost your sales. This is the iTunes top 10 album list from the morning of June 26th, less than 24 hours after Jackson died. He holds 8 of the 10 spots: