There she went.

I see Alex posted the excerpt from the Miss America book in yesterday’s comments, about the year Vanessa Williams won. It’s very good; if you haven’t used up your WashPost clicks this month, I recommend you spend one on it.

I attended, and covered, the Miss A pageant the year before that. I always have had abysmal timing, but 1982 was the year Miss Ohio was a local girl, and that’s the year the paper decided to send me. I flew to Philadelphia and then took a puddle-jumper to A.C., and there I was, at Miss America.

And yes, you can hum those last six words in the tune of the famous song. But that year, and I believe Vanessa’s year as well, it was not sung as the newly crowned Miss A took her first walk. It had something to do with firing Bert Parks and maybe he had copyright? Can’t recall. But the song that year was called “Miss America, You’re Beautiful,” sung by Gary Collins, Parks’ replacement. It didn’t go over well, and a deal was struck with Parks and “There She Is” came back.

I’m sure I’ve told all these stories before, so I won’t bore you. But as far as Amy Argetsinger’s excellent history goes, she notes an old Texas pageant coach told his own charge, well before they arrived in Atlantic City, the following:

“Miss New York is going to win,” he said. “She will be the first Black Miss America.”

I don’t doubt it, because even I had heard that. It wasn’t that the fix was in, but rather, that the timing was right. Various parties had been pestering the pageant for years for its lily-whiteness and retro ideas about femininity, etc., and they were under the gun to show nuh-uh, they were so not racist, and along came Vanessa Williams, and she was…perfect. Black, unmistakably so, but light-skinned, blue-eyed, fine-featured, tawny hair. She was Black, but entirely in the Miss America mold. And she could sing, god, she could sing. Looked great in a swimsuit. The whole package.

After my year at the pageant, I would read anything I could find about it, and I saw an interview before the ’83 pageant with Debra Maffett, who had won the year I was there. Miss California, wore the famous Lucky Swimsuit, another one you could tell was going to be in the top five just by looking at her. And even she said, in that interview, that “the time was right for a black Miss America.” My point being: Vanessa Williams was someone everyone saw coming.

That was such a weird week, hanging backstage at the pageant, doing interviews with any Miss who would consent to one, and they all consented, knowing the worth of a little press. I was the same age they were, and yet, they were…so. So polished, so sparkly, so…not charismatic, more like packaged. No other woman my age wore her hair the way they did, unless she was a TV news anchor or something, curled and teased and sprayed into a helmet. None of my friends wore that much makeup. And none of my friends read Time magazine like Talmudic scholars read scripture, so they could drop an opinion on Israeli foreign policy on cue. They were weird. I am an outgoing person, but couldn’t imagine being friends with any of those creatures, except maybe Miss Florida, who came in a bad girl (DUI) and left one, too. You could see the real person inside, trying to escape. The rest held their own actual personalities in with shellack – polish, nail and otherwise, foundation, sequins.

It was an old trick, the day of the swimsuit photo shoots for the wire services, for one of the Misses to jump into the pool they were all posing around, knowing that picture would lead the photo package (and ruining one’s hairdo, so you were effectively excused from doing any more). Miss California did that. I looked her up today: She’s a Trumper, and I see hints of QAnon lurking around there.

Anyway, that would have been roughly 39 years ago, and Miss A is so different now…wait, didn’t the pageant go bankrupt? I can’t remember. But when I saw Miss Michigan at the auto show a few years back, she had a couple of visible tattoos. In her introduction, she was quite the little spark plug. And a women’s studies major. What a hoot.

Another 90 degree day. Considered going out in it? And thought better. Happy Wednesday.

Posted at 9:00 pm in Popculch | 70 Comments

Trying to do better.

I was thinking the other day about some new language we’re all suddenly using. Not new words, but particular phrases. Make space for. And sit with that. And do better. There are a few others that will come to me later, but I ran across a couple of them in a single short piece the other day, and it reminded me how much they bug me.

There’s an undertone of nursey preschool teacher to do better, scolding mommy to sit with that (in your timeout chair), and while I despise the term “virtue signaling,” there’s an undeniable tone of it in make space for. Here’s a wonderful thing that a person who is better than you has made space for. Sit with that a minute (along with your lazy badness). See if you can’t do better, going forward.

I used the word “crazy” in a headline and got a finger in my face about it from a reader, who included a link on why no one is supposed to say crazy anymore, but honestly, “mentally ill idea” doesn’t really express what I was trying to say. Also, “slaves” has been replaced by “enslaved people,” which comes from the same idea that changed “schizophrenic” to “person with schizophrenia” and “manic-depressive” to “person with bipolar disorder.” It emphasizes humanity, but honestly, if it makes that big of a difference to you, maybe your problem was you not fully understanding slavery to begin with. I’m informed that “slave” is a nonhuman noun, but I never saw it that way, except when a photographer showed me his lighting system, which uses the term to describe a particular type of flash.

Twelve Years an Enslaved Person. Person Enslaved to the Rhythm. Doesn’t quite work.

Don’t get me started on the linguistic minefields around transgenderism. I keep my mouth shut. I check my privilege. I sit with that. I make space for the idea that it is better to confuse readers by saying, for instance, “actor Elliot Page has come out as transgender” than to spend even a single phrase explaining that Elliot was once known as E****, because one must never, ever use a deadname. You have to figure it out from the paragraph that says Elliot starred in “Juno” and a couple other films you may or may not have seen. Kate effortlessly uses “they” and “them” to describe nonbinary folks, and I’m never not confused by this, and asking “who else are we talking about?”

I try to have empathy for every member of the human family, but as a writer, my aim is clarity. This doesn’t help.

When Ross Perot was running for president, he addressed an NAACP chapter. He was talking about why NAFTA was bad for working-class people, who are disproportionately not-white, and he said, “Who gets hurt by these trade agreements? You people!” This led to a blizzard of think pieces about the term “you people,” how condescending it is, etc. etc. A colleague said, “He should have said ‘people of you,'” and I cannot deny it: I laughed, even though I fully understand why colored people is bad, and people of color is not. If Perot had said “you guys” or “you folks,” no one would have said a word, but oh my — you people. Very bad.

I read something yesterday that announced, in an editor’s note at the top, that a particular racial slur used by the subject of the story (describing an incident where the slur had been used to attack her, not by her) had been excised. I got to the part with the slur, and it had been asterisk’d out. So…OK, I get it, that was a good call. But why announce it first? Just do it. It’s talking down to readers, which is a reflection of so much of what we do with each other these days. It’s a writer announcing “I heard the bad word, but I am sparing you, because I’m trying to do better,” even though everybody probably knows the word in question.

Anyway, welcome seems to do the work of make space for. Think about it works for sit with that. Do better is probably something we have to live with, until it’s replaced by something worse. I leave you with this, which I found in the NYT’s Social Q’s column:

Posted at 10:25 am in Popculch | 52 Comments

Which edit? The edit.

My email signature, various online bios, all describe me as a writer and editor. And OK, yes, I get what this phrase — “the edit” — means, but it still gives me a bit of a facial tic:

It’s the definite article with “edit” that bugs me. One minute you’re just a badly paid pen for hire, getting an email or text reading, “Please address my edits,” or “I’ve done my edit,” and the next, cookies are getting edited.

Edit, in these usages, means, “a pre-selected group of something, made by people who know more than you about whatever’s being selected.” The Saks edit:

A whole store, called just…you know:

Note the copy block. The Edit is a store with not just an owner, but a curator. You see that word a lot in Edits, although as someone who’s edited, or been edited, my whole career, I’ve never had a curator, too. (Just an editor!) Maybe I’ll try that on my next note to whoever I’m tasked with editing next: “I am done curating your copy. See the edit, attached.”

It’s just one of those language things. One day you wake up, and no one says, “I gave you a present.” They say, “I’ve gifted you with this sweater.” Sometimes past tense just needs a kick in the ass. Or it’s “the U.S. team” one day, and “Team USA” the next. “Get well soon, Adam” yields to “AdamStrong,” justlikethat.

I blame hashtags.

You can tell what kind of day Tuesday was. Sitting around, waiting for phone calls, wishing I were already retired and could bore people with these sorts of observations full-time.

So I leave you with a little bloggage. Matt Gaetz tried for a blanket pardon:

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal allies during his term, publicly pledging loyalty and even signing a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.

Ha ha ha. That guy.

OK, hopes for a better Wednesday, here. I hope it is The Edit of good days.

Posted at 7:49 am in Popculch | 69 Comments

Good news.

After a few days, weeks or months like we’ve had, would you be interested in reading an entirely pleasant story that may even make you smile?

Then have at it: How Nancy Faust and her organ set the tone for America’s pastime, a feature about Comiskey Park’s former organist.

We need more good stories about Nancys, in my opinion.

Long days, a night out. I’ll try to be back end of the week, but for now, Nancy Faust and a fresh thread.

Posted at 10:07 pm in Popculch | 100 Comments

Mr. Wrong.

I was born in the late ‘50s, at which point the Depression was still fresh enough in the popular imagination that many of its tropes were fairly widespread. (I should say here that this post is not about the stock market or economic collapse. It’s about pop music.) Among them was the hobo — the man who rambled from town to town, riding the rails, carrying his belongings in a bandanna on a stick. While they were seen as down on their luck, often drunk, just as often they were portrayed as free spirits that society never got its claws into. Every big city had SRO flophouses. No one ever talked about untreated mental illness or the need for more housing or support services. All of which is the long way around to notice that every so often a song will pop up in an oldies mix to remind me of how hard this archetype was sold, especially with regards to women.

I was driving home the other day when Spotify burped up “Gentle on My Mind,” Glen Campbell’s show-closing signature song. It’s a song about a woman who is fondly remembered by one of these footloose souls, and it had been a while since I listened to the lyrics:

It’s knowin’ that your door is always open and your path is free to walk
That makes me want to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch…

You’ve heard it. And just in case you think it’s about a long-haul trucker or something, the final verse makes reference to dipping a cup of soup from a gurglin’ cracklin’ cauldron in some train yard, which sounds pretty hobo-trope to me.

Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” introduced us to another romantic bum:

Find me a place in a boxcar
So I take my guitar to pass some time
Late at night, it’s hard to rest
I hold your picture to my chest, and I feel fine

But that’s not all. A decade later came the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man.” When it’s time for leavin’, he hopes you’ll understand that he was born a ramblin’ man.

Carol Leifer used to do a funny routine about Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” something about girl, you need to find a better class of boyfriend. This was in the ‘80s, which shows that finally, finally women were starting to respond to this preposterous romantic archetype.

At least Brandy, that fine girl (what a good wife she would be) had the sense to love a seaman. At least the Merchant Marine is a job.

Times change. Women wake up and smell the coffee in their own kitchens, not the pot bubbling on the fire down in the train yard. They ask themselves, why is my door always open and my path free to walk to this goddamn bum? It reminds me of Rob’s opening monologue in “High Fidelity:”

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

Not long after I discovered Glen Campbell on Spotify, I sent Kate a link to “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” a song released when I was 10. Even at 10 I knew it was bullshit.

Sometimes I think too much.

I’m writing this at 6 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Conventional wisdom says Joe has Michigan in the bag, but conventional wisdom about Michigan is often wrong. We shall see who Mr. Right really is.

In the meantime, enjoy midweek.

Posted at 6:09 pm in Popculch | 88 Comments

Video on demand.

I went to a meeting on Tuesday. One of the women there had just had a birthday, and a friend had gifted her with “a Cameo by that guy from the Fyre Festival documentary,” Andy someone. We all watched this thing, a roughly 30-second video in which Fyre Festival Guy called her by her name, specifically mentioned the big milestone (40) and her two kids, then threw in a Fyre Festival joke to wrap it all up.

“What is this…Cameo?” I asked, and got the usual answer: It’s an app.

Boy, is it. It’s an app (and a website) with dozens of photographs on it, along with prices, of individuals ranging from basically unknown to mid-level-oh-that-guy celebrities. For the price quoted, you can hire them to record a brief personalized video. A birthday greeting, congratulations, whatever. I haven’t dived all the way into the site; I assume all this has to be a mutual agreement thing. You can’t put any old words into…Charlie Sheen’s mouth. But that you can get Charlie Sheen at all is kinda amazing, when you think about it.

I got lost, scrolling through the possibilities. Stormy Daniels, $250. Gilbert Gottfried, $150. Tom Arnold, $100. OMG Tomi Lahren, $70!!! (Like anyone would pay that. Even Heidi Montag and Andy Dick fetch more than that.) It’s hilarious, proof that even the nominally famous are not immune from money-grubbing for a few $20s. Sooner or later, this shit will bring on the revolution, and I welcome it. Before it does, though, I’d love to get Stormy to record a birthday greeting for my boss. I’ll even write the script.

So, today. The hearings. I had a lot to do, which meant I could only pay attention here and there. I tried to keep it on in the background, but once Nunes started talking, I simply couldn’t keep my wits about me. I swear, the last three years have taken 10 off my own life. This can’t be good for me. So I muted it and checked in via Twitter from time to time.

My takeaway is that this is going to be bad for the Republicans, but only in the long run, and not as bad as it should be. Anyone stupid enough to put their faith in this moron are unlikely to be moved.

By the way, the snow that fell the other day? It overperformed. We were supposed to get five inches, but it ended up being closer to eight. Because the autumn leaf pickup was only about half over, much of the equipment that would normally clear it away was still fitted with leaf-collecting stuff, not snowplows, and some streets remain kinda rutted because they were only salted, not plowed. Then there was this phenomenon:

Leaves falling on top of snow. It’s unlikely to melt for at least another week, too.

One more link? Sure: A serious book-critic’s review of the Anonymous book:

More often in “A Warning,” actions are not taken; they are almost taken. In a particularly dire circumstance, several top officials consider resigning together, a “midnight self-massacre” that would draw attention to Trump’s mismanagement. “The move was deemed too risky because it would shake public confidence,” Anonymous explains. At any moment, the author writes, there are at least a handful of top aides “on the brink” of quitting. (The brink is a popular hangout for Trump officials.) Anonymous also wonders if Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests in 2017, when the president drew a moral equivalence between white nationalists and those opposing them, would have been the time for such a gesture. “Maybe that was a lost moment, when a rush to the exits would have meant something.”

It’s like “Profiles in Thinking About Courage.”

Good one. OK, must run. Time to pull in the latchstring and think about Thursday.

Posted at 5:04 am in Current events, Popculch | 61 Comments

Are you ready for a brand-new beat?

Making my way slowly through the 1619 project, discussed earlier. So far my favorite piece is Wesley Morris’, in the magazine, about music, and what black folks brought to the table, and continue to bring to the table, of American musical expression.

I’ve always disliked the term “cultural appropriation.” I get it, I totally do, but I’ve never been comfortable with trying to define how listening to lots of things, taking it all into your soul, processing it in your soul-blender and then pouring out your own smoothie crosses a line between “influenced by” and “stealing from.” I think a lot of people can’t do it, either, which is how we get the stupidest extremes of the charge — the Oberlin students whining that serving banh mi sandwiches in the cafeteria, made with the wrong kind of bread, somehow devalues the unique cuisine of Vietnam, to name but one. I try to ignore these stories, because they’re dumb. The banh mi itself is a unique fusion of native and colonial Vietnam, after all (the baguette), and sooner or later someone is going to fill one with macaroni and cheese, at which point, game over. It’s food, folks. It all goes in the same stomach, as my dad used to say.

Music is more difficult. If you know anything about pop culture, you know about Alan Lomax and his field recordings, which preserved the unique live sounds of black southern music for the ages, but also how that tipped over into the theft of same. You know about the routine contract rip-offs of black musicians; there was a reason the mob was involved in radio and music publishing, after all. You may have seen the “60 Minutes” feature on Little Richard, which featured Pat Boone singing “Tutti Frutti,” a recording that paid Richard Penniman the princely royalty of zero dollars and zero cents. The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin both got their start covering African-American music. The Stones grew into something else entirely, and you can argue that Led Zeppelin was absolutely sui generis from the get-go, but it was a necessary step in the evolution of both bands. And it was great music.

My point is, trying to separate black music from white music is like trying to separate black and white people. We cross-pollinate. It’s what people do.

Morris’ essay is wide-ranging, and doesn’t really address “appropriation,” that term that sounds like it came out of the Cultural Revolution. Nor does he address copyright, or Alan Lomax. Rather, he dives into the stew and comes out with something that’s just delicious to read. Here’s the top, a slightly longer cut-and-paste than I generally do:

I’ve got a friend who’s an incurable Pandora guy, and one Saturday while we were making dinner, he found a station called Yacht Rock. “A tongue-in-cheek name for the breezy sounds of late ’70s/early ’80s soft rock” is Pandora’s definition, accompanied by an exhortation to “put on your Dockers, pull up a deck chair and relax.” With a single exception, the passengers aboard the yacht were all dudes. With two exceptions, they were all white. But as the hours passed and dozens of songs accrued, the sound gravitated toward a familiar quality that I couldn’t give language to but could practically taste: an earnest Christian yearning that would reach, for a moment, into Baptist rawness, into a known warmth. I had to laugh — not because as a category Yacht Rock is absurd, but because what I tasted in that absurdity was black.

I started putting each track under investigation. Which artists would saunter up to the racial border? And which could do their sauntering without violating it? I could hear degrees of blackness in the choir-loft certitude of Doobie Brothers-era Michael McDonald on “What a Fool Believes”; in the rubber-band soul of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”; in the malt-liquor misery of Ace’s “How Long” and the toy-boat wistfulness of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing.”

Then Kenny Loggins’s “This Is It” arrived and took things far beyond the line. “This Is It” was a hit in 1979 and has the requisite smoothness to keep the yacht rocking. But Loggins delivers the lyrics in a desperate stage whisper, like someone determined to make the kind of love that doesn’t wake the baby. What bowls you over is the intensity of his yearning — teary in the verses, snarling during the chorus. He sounds as if he’s baring it all yet begging to wring himself out even more.

Playing black-music detective that day, I laughed out of bafflement and embarrassment and exhilaration. It’s the conflation of pride and chagrin I’ve always felt anytime a white person inhabits blackness with gusto. It’s: You have to hand it to her. It’s: Go, white boy. Go, white boy. Go. But it’s also: Here we go again. The problem is rich. If blackness can draw all of this ornate literariness out of Steely Dan and all this psychotic origami out of Eminem; if it can make Teena Marie sing everything — “Square Biz,” “Revolution,” “Portuguese Love,” “Lovergirl” — like she knows her way around a pack of Newports; if it can turn the chorus of Carly Simon’s “You Belong to Me” into a gospel hymn; if it can animate the swagger in the sardonic vulnerabilities of Amy Winehouse; if it can surface as unexpectedly as it does in the angelic angst of a singer as seemingly green as Ben Platt; if it’s the reason Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” remains the whitest jam at the blackest parties, then it’s proof of how deeply it matters to the music of being alive in America, alive to America.

If you can’t tell by now, I recommend it. It’s one reason this project has been such an eye-opening pleasure to read.

I wish I could say anything else was a pleasure today, but it wasn’t. Terrible, terrible insomnia last night, which always leaves me depressed and miserable the next day. At least I was able to play the work-from-home card. I expect — I hope — to get a better night’s sleep tonight, and that tomorrow will be better. Keep a good thought.

Posted at 5:30 pm in Popculch | 75 Comments

The weekend, the whirl.

We start the week on a rocket blast of coffee and eggs and barely slow down. Wednesday is Hump Day, halfway to the weekend, then it’s Thursday, the official start of the weekend. (This is true; I saw some market research once that said people start thinking of the weekend at noon on Thursday, and once your mind is there, your body’s only a half step behind. Then it’s the official weekend, and it’s woo, party! Dinner guests! Activities! Errands! Laundry! And all of a sudden it’s Sunday night and you’re thinking, what happened here?

Americans work too hard, this is indisputably true.

it was a busy weekend. Eastern Market, dry cleaner, blah blah, ending at the Cannabis Cup, in town for the weekend. This is an event I was utterly unprepared for, a trade show all about marijuana, newly legalized in Michigan. I went there expecting a …trade show, but it was far more. Line around the block to get in, in withering sun and heat. It probably took half an hour just to get through the lines, and once inside? Quite nuts. Packed to the rafters, hot as hell, stinky as hell, row after row of weed vendors, selling pretty much everything weed-related.

If you live in a non-legal state, the first glimpse of Big Marijuana may be surprising. It has product specialists:

And of course it has characters:

And a certain literally homegrown charm:

But this was a big crowd, in a very Detroit space — the Russell Industrial Center courtyard:

It’s Weedstock. I’m sure someone has called it that before. I mean, the Wu-Tang Clan played.

Then, today, Sunday, was Swim to the Moon, the open-water swim I’ve been worried about for weeks. I had reason to worry; it was no easier than two years ago, when I finished it thinking I was going to die. I stayed on course better this year, maybe shaved a minute or two off my last time. But there’s simply no way to swim that far and make it easy, not at my age. But I finished, and didn’t drown, so we’ll maybe see about next year.

I’m trying to catch up with whatever I missed in the papers this weekend, but for now, I’m working my way through the 1619 Project, the NYT future Pulitzer winner about the effects of slavery in America. It’s much better than I expected, which is why so many Republicans seem to be so butthurt over it. So far, though, it’s very good.

And with that, I’m out. So, so tired.

Posted at 9:08 pm in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments

Heat, begone.

If you live on the east coast, the heat won’t last much longer. I know, because it came to you from Michigan, and it is being chased out to sea by a cold front that swept through Saturday night. Lotsa wind, lotsa wind-related headaches, mainly power outages. We kept ours, but lost our internet — twice.

You’ll cool off soon enough. Hope you don’t lose your internet in the bargain

So with that in mind, and because I worked most of today, and “Big Little Lies” is coming on in 14 minutes, so just two bits of the bloggage today:

First, the full, 16-minute-plus projection of “Apollo 50” on the Washington Monument and a few other screens in D.C. the other night. There’s an every-other-year light-installation festival in Detroit called D-lectricity that is starting to get some works like this, but nothing this impressive. Absolutely worth your time.

And a Spin magazine look at the 40-year anniversary of “Aja,” my once and forever favorite Steely Dan record. Yes, pretentious, yes, full of itself, yes, you get the feeling the album cover was black so you could better see the inevitable lines of cocaine laid thereon, but I still love it.

With that, I must go and embrace the week ahead. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Popculch | 105 Comments

Lie, memory.

I heard a teaser clip the other day about why young people want to see the U.S. send a man to Mars.

“Everybody who was alive then knows exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface,” an under-35-sounding man said. “Our generation doesn’t have that, and I want us to.”

As people his age say: LOLOL.

On one of the other anniversaries of the Apollo 11, I read a story about how people remembered it.

“I remember it so vividly,” ran a typical account. “My kindergarten teacher had a TV on a cart, and brought it into the room. She drew the blinds and we all gathered around to watch.”

Or: “My daddy and I were making hay on the farm, but mama said we should take the afternoon off and watch, because it was history, and so we did.”

There were several more like that. Proving that our memories can lie like a young wife with a side piece, oh yes they do. Obviously no one was watching in school, unless they went to a school where classes were held in the middle of the summer, close to midnight. And very unlikely anyone was making hay, either, although that person might be thinking of the moon landing, which I believe was on a Sunday afternoon. It is seared in my memory because I was at a friend’s house, and her dad teared up. I wasn’t accustomed to seeing men cry, which is probably why I remember it better than the fuzzy images on the black-and-white TV.

I, too, can tell you where I was: Struggling to stay awake in my bedroom, while my mom watched from the other twin bed. The upstairs TV, which we rolled around on a cart, was in my room.

“Don’t you want to watch this?” she’d ask occasionally, and I’d struggle to focus, but I missed the one-small-step stuff. I was only 11, and even then, not much of a night owl.

But contrary to popular belief, memories can lie, and do. We’re suggestible, and stuff gets corrupted on our hard drives, just like it does with the one I’m writing this on. How many times have we heard stories about kids watching news of the Kennedy assassination on TVs in schools? Add a few more years, and suddenly they’re all mixed up.

A little short today, I know, but I had another insomnia bout last night and I’m beat.

For bloggage, try on this Robin Givhan essay about the late JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette. Interesting take:

Fame looked so different at the end of the past century than it does now. Princess Diana died in 1997. We paused and did a bit of cultural soul-searching. The price of fame was too much; the paparazzi had gotten out of control; it was a dangerous thing for a celebrity to fly too close to the sun.

We weren’t quite done with the introspection and the feeling of culpability when John and Carolyn died two years later in a plane crash. And when they did, it was as though we just threw in the towel and began to indulge in our worst impulses. We demanded to know everything about celebrities — what they wore, what they ate, when they gave birth, who they voted for, how they grieved. And the famous began to make the best of an untenable situation by transforming most every aspect of their lives, including their hobbies and parenthood, into a side business.

In hindsight, it’s as though Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy were holding back the impeding tide of celebrity excess: the costly haute couture, the personal branding, the competitive public confessionals, the grotesqueness of it all.

Back later this week, eh?

Posted at 9:03 pm in Popculch | 45 Comments