July 07, 2009

Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone...Unless It's At A Big Concert On TV

It seems to me that Michael Jackson ended up being more popular dead than alive. I guess that always happens, though, doesn't it? The public and the press always tend to speak better of people in death than they did when they were alive. After all, it's considered bad manners to speak ill of the dead (although that never stopped me before, as anyone who read my work, especially about Nixon, in college can attest). But I just want to educate the public and the media about two specific terms:

eulogize /"ju;l@dZVIz/ (also eulogise)
· v. praise highly.
– DERIVATIVES eulogist n. eulogistic adj. eulogistically adv.

deify /"deIIfVI, "di;I-/
· v. (deifies, deified) make into or worship as a god.
– DERIVATIVES deification n.
– ORIGIN ME: from OFr. deifier, from eccles. L. deificare, from deus ‘god’.
When it came to Michael Jackson's death, the first would have been entirely acceptable. The second is what we got. To be fair, I listened to Michael Jackson's music, but to see people call him "the greatest entertainer ever"? Really? I think that's a bit much. First of all, I thought his two greatest albums were "Off the Wall" and "Thriller," and I suspect that was due in some significant part to Quincy Jones. The rest of the music...eh. Good but not great. Frankly, I think that strictly in terms of musical ability--writing, singing, arranging, etc.---some of those attending the memorial service were better than Jackson. Stevie Wonder jumps to the top of the list. I don't think that Jackson was the first artist to unite black and white America, either, even though I've heard that over and over again, mostly as an excuse for the overwhelming media coverage of his death. What about Nat "King" Cole, or Sam Cooke, or Marvin Gaye, or any number of other Motown artists. (Again, I think Stevie Wonder might be included.) It's true, Jackson sold an incredible number of albums and tickets, but I'm not that sure that in and of itself makes him great, any more than the Big Mac is somehow "better" than a burger or steak from your local diner, or the film Titanic is somehow "better" than, say, The Wrestler, simply because the former sold more tickets, or that the Facebook user with 1,000 "friends" is somehow a better person than the user with 50.

We sometimes have an exaggerated sense of our own era. How many times have you seen a top 20 list of the greatest (insert topic here) of all time, and noticed that most of them are from the last couple of years. To put things in a little perspective, I could mention that Rudolph Valentino's funeral drew about 100,000 mourners, and a) his career was much shorter, b) it was in 1926, well before the modern technology available to disseminate an artist's work around the globe, and c) it was a funeral, not a glorified concert. And the anniversaries of the deaths of Elvis Presley (in 1977) and James Dean (in 1955) still draw tens of thousands to Graceland and Fairmount, Indiana, respectively. If, in fifty-five years, people are still flocking to Neverland Ranch (or wherever), I'll gladly admit I was wrong. Until then, Michael's got a long way to go.

Look, I have no problem with Jackson. He made good music. He was influential. He was acquitted of any criminal activity. But let's be realistic. He was just an entertainer. And I don't even think he was, as many people have said, "the greatest entertainer ever." For my money, that title belongs to the great Sammy Davis, Jr. No one else even comes close. (And he's another one that united black and white America before Jackson.) The really ugly thing about all this is that it made a spectacle of what was obviously a tragedy for Jackson's family. I hope they found some comfort in all of it.

July 03, 2009

You Go, Golden Girl!

I really never thought I'd be cheering on Helen Thomas, but I'm glad to admit I was wrong. I've said a couple of times on here that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is an incompetent bumbler (at least in press secretary terms). I have to admit, though, that I felt the slightest bit of pity for the guy as he was figuratively bitch-slapped by Helen Thomas and Chip Reid.

First Reid asked why the questions for Wednesday’s town hall on healthcare were being preselected. After Gibbs tried to dodge that question a few times, Thomas became involved, saying, “We have never had that in the White House. I’m amazed that you people … call for openness and transparency."
Gibbs' nervous laughter is almost as embarrassing as the spectacle at President Obama's town hall meeting when he hugged Debby Smith, an audience member with cancer, who said she couldn't afford treatment. Not only is it shameless (jeez, couldn't he find a baby to kiss?) and borderline inappropriate (I don't know where you work, but hugging strangers is frowned upon where I work), it turns out that Ms. Smith, rather than being a random audience member, actually "volunteer[s] for the political arm of the President's Democratic National Committee Organizing for America," and was there at the invitation of the White House. So, if the audience is hand-selected, and the questions are pre-approved, where's the debate?

I certainly don't want to downplay Ms. Smith's situation. It's a terrible illness. But let's be frank. The White House used her. She became a prop in one more dog and pony show by this administration. Another attempt at emotional manipulation because they know that the facts and logic just don't support their position. My god, Obama even referred to her as "exhibit A" for what's wrong with the current health care system...because that's what she is to a practiced lawyer like Obama--an exhibit. Thanks to Michelle Malkin, I can guess who won't be appearing as "exhibit B."

In February 2009, outrage in the Obamas’ community exploded after a young boy covered by Medicaid was turned away from the University of Chicago Medical Center. Dontae Adams’ mother, Angela, had sought emergency treatment for him after a pit bull tore off his upper lip. Mrs. Obama’s hospital gave the boy a tetanus shot, antibiotics, and Tylenol and shoved him out the door. The mother and son took an hour-long bus ride to another hospital for surgery.

I’ll guarantee you this: You’ll never see the Adams family featured at an Obama policy summit or seated next to the First Lady at a joint session of Congress to illustrate the failures of the health care system.

If that's how Obamas handle health care, I think many people are going to be in for a rude awakening...