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In one week in September, 1991, Miles Davis and Theodor Seuss Geisel died. That Sunday night, on the radio show Idiot’s Delight, host Vin Scelsa said the thing he often said after a week like that. As I remember it, he played music for 30 minutes or so before saying anything – and it wasn’t Miles Davis he played, either, but maybe Beethoven or something – and then he opened the mic, and it was pretty quiet, and pretty reflective, and pretty sacred. Eventually he spoke, and it wasn’t heavy with oratory or morbid or overly sentimental or any of that.

“What a cool week it must be in heaven, you know?”

This is the ebullience that I like to remember when I think of all the emotion around, well, death. It’s an easier response when the person you want to celebrate was an artist, because you’ve still got something of theirs, and it’s likely vivid and even dates from a moment in their life when they were perhaps beautiful, or vibrant or anyway not decrepit with age or physically mangled by accident or addiction. It’s something I think of when Jerry Orbach or John Spencer shows up on TV — two actors whom I certainly miss. It isn’t too hard to see that both men have, by virtue of the weirdness of the re-run, probably never been as ubiquitous, so accessible for study and appreciation, as they are today. That is a true legacy.

This past week, another odd couple died. First, Farrah Fawcett, who was remembered in the New York Times in a column that was monstrous, even if it had the ring of truth. The sentiment, if you missed it, was sort of a bad-joke-epitaph: “Here Lies Farrah Fawcett, Who Wasn’t Very Bright Or Talented, But She Tried Anyway, So I Guess One Should At Least Acknowledge That Much.”

More could have been said about Fawcett. Writing for The Daily Beast, Amy Wallace shares some recent correspondence with Fawcett, in which it becomes clear that Fawcett had a pen-pal friendship with Ayn Rand, and that Rand was impressed with something she saw in the young actress. It wasn’t the first time that Rand had seen a diamond buried deep in what was already widely recognized as a diamond. She wrote an encomium for the deceased Marilyn Monroe, (this, unearthed by Brian Doherty at Reason) in which she discovers the murderer of Monroe to be the world of Salieris who begrudge beauty, genius and talent its fame:

The evil of a cultural atmosphere is made by all those who share it. Anyone who has ever felt resentment against the good for being the good and has given voice to it, is the murderer of Marilyn Monroe.

Wallace shares some of Fawcett’s thoughts on Rand (in addition to watching the film version of The Fountainhead, Fawcett did read the copy of Atlas Shrugged that Rand sent her), and the quotes that Wallace shares are decidedly not those of a bimbo. Wallace and her editors may be overstating it a little when they use the word “brainy,” to describe the actress (Fawcett: “I remember liking the movie [The Fountainhead] because it was unique in that the characters seemed to be the embodiments of ideas as opposed to real flesh and blood people with interests and lives. Now that I think about it, I think that’s why Ayn was drawn to Charlie’s Angels. Because the characters that Kate, Jaclyn and I played weren’t really characters (the audience never saw us outside of work) as much as personifications of the idea that three sexy women could do all the things that Kojak and Columbo did. Our characters existed only to serve the idea of the show (even “Charlie” was just a faceless voice on a speaker phone).”)

She’s definitely onto something there, but while Charlie’s Angels may well have been about something else — something more — than it seemed, one senses that Fawcett took her foot of the intellectual gas pedal when she settled on her alternate “three sexy women” reading of the show. She’s much closer to something interesting when she observes that Charlie was an invisible, disembodied voice, and maybe she was getting revved up to observe that in a society that objectifies women totally, the show she was on was both complicit and commenting on the Freudian complications for successful women as they try both to live up to their Goddess status and live down to the expectations of men who see them as a collection of attractive distractions.

In any event, within hours of the news of Fawcett’s death, Michael Jackson’s death kicked everything from Iranian political protests to North Korean sabre-rattling to the philanderings of the Governor of South Carolina and, yes, the death of Farrah Fawcett, completely out of the spotlight. Much, much more will be written about Jackson in the next few days and weeks, and he will always retain a critically important place in the history of the past few decades, as a truly remarkable artist, as a talented businessperson, as a thwarted, twisted and troubled personality, and an almost mythical, self-defeating, self-destroying eccentric.

But in a way, both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died of the same disease: living beyond their years. (It’s debatable, of course — Jackson was planning a comeback. One wonders if Fawcett, deep down, may also have been planning one, too.) What are we to make of this? When someone’s death is still on our minds, we wonder whether their memory will ever eclipse the news of their death. Quite by accident, I turned to Herodotus today. And here is what I found:

He that is greatly rich is not more blessed than he that has enough for the day unless fortune so attend upon him that he ends his life well, having all those fine things still with him. Moreover, many very rich men are unblessed, and many who who have a moderate competence are fortunate. Now he that is greatly rich but is unblessed has an advantage over the lucky man in two respects only; but the latter has an advantage over the rich and unblessed in many. The rich and unblessed man is better able to accomplish his every desire and to support such great visitation of evil as shall befall him. But the moderately rich and lucky man wins over the other in these ways: true, he is not equally able to support both the visitation of evil and his own desire, but his good fortune turns these aside from him; he is uncrippled and healthy, without evils to afflict him and with good children and good looks. If, in addition to all this, he shall end his life well, he is the man you seek, the one who is worthy to be called blessed; but wait till he is dead to call him so, and till them call him not blessed but lucky.


See? (thanks to marct)

More here.

In fact, as hockey season winds down, it’s poised to step into the void created by hockey’s TV absence. I’m expecting an ESPN-2 morning-after wrap-up of concerts around the country. Especially now that summer festival season is getting ready to kick off. (“Billionaire Aspen, Colo. Smack-Down In The Tent! Ted Turner says he’s only sorry he left Levin enough room to curl up and cry in the corner…”).

David Halberstam reported from courtside and from Vietnam, and he wrote long books that will stand for decades or more as a testament to whatever. When he needed them the most, words did not fail him. Not, at least, according to the story told by New York Times denizens, recounted by Timothy Crouse in 1972 and then recounted again by Calvin Trillin in 1993. When obnoxious, pre-rotund Johnny Apple made some stupid comment to the recently-returned-from-war Halberstam, he found poetry in three great words, which we should all use whenever the mood strikes us, as a glorious homage to a great man. Less than a half-year after Apple’s death, today’s ludicrous news brings the astoundingly stupid death of David Halberstam, in a car accident of all goddam things, in Menlo Park of all goddam places.
Somewhere, wherever these types of people end up going after this part, there’s a fat dead Johnny Apple saying something stupid to a new arrival, and the only comfort I can take right now is that I know what that new arrival is going to say to him.

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I don’t know if Edwards has a real shot, but he does look like central casting’s a-list POTUS, at least for a movie that only features the president as a secondary character. Maybe a romantic comedy about the president’s daughter, or a romantic comedy about the president’s aging mother (a possible star vehicle for one of our talented aging American actresses? Goldie? She’d be perfect. For god’s sake, though, not Diane Keaton. Please. Enough with Diane Keaton.)


Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, but he never won an Oscar. The current Governor of California has had a thriving career as a moviestar, but he hasn’t won an Oscar. Former Vice President Al Gore, whose most famous acting credits include the role of “pathetic overacting candidate” in the live-for-tv series, “Presidential Candidates Debate,” in 2000, and a widely-hailed appearance on Saturday Night Live the night before announcing he wouldn’t seek the highest office again in 2004, is on track to become the unlikely first just-about-President to win an Oscar.

Gore speculation has been brilliant this year, so far. We turn, as always, to our film critics, for good political punditry. The smartest word came this year from the oracle of the Chronicle (or “Orachron”), Mick LaSalle. He says a grosse Gore is a non-candidate, but a sveltitician is a potential threat for the Barackary Oclintons.

Actually, he said at first that Gore showing up to the Oscars at all would mean a no-go on the 2000 victor’s 2008 candidacy, but then conceded that just showing up wasn’t the thing. Showing up fat, however…

An AP story says an Oscar for Al could send some juice into the nascent and undeclared candidacy.

And then there’s Rolling Stone. I’m with them, actually. This guy is looking better and better. At least until Gary Hart gets back out there.

That was not a joke, by the way. Gary Hart. Write that down.

You might have gotten to see this:
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But it isn’t. So you didn’t. Until just now, or a minute from now, whenever you give in to the power of the little triangle in the circle, calling out to you to press it.

Press it.

A little less than a year ago, Ze Frank started his year-long project called, simply, The Show. It’s become a popular daily video podcast and the prospect of its year-long run coming to an end is much-lamented by its many subscribers and fans. They are many, and their sentiments are now duly noted. One wishes that were enough to make them stop, but it isn’t. Ze Frank, himself, is going to ride the wave all the way to an end-of-The-Show party that will be in Brooklyn, or in Los Angeles, or somewhere else….

The show has done nothing but gain momentum over the course of the year thus far, with more than one significant mention in The Times, among other mainstream media sites.

Now, talk about the end of the show is clearly heating up, especially since this enlightening article a few weeks back, in The Observer.

There’s lots of speculation about what he’ll do next, with most of it swarming around Hollywood.

But let’s look back on the year: Here’s this young, brilliant guy. He’s got a close eye on current events and politics. He’s an architect of ideas, a writer, an actor. He’s got a mind for strategy. And — this bears repeating — he’s interested in politics.

Last year, he took a hard line against one videoblog site’s inflation of its popularity. Yes, it seemed a little catty to some obvservers, but what was really at issue in the so-called “Nerd War”?

The issue was metrics, numbers, how we count them and what they mean.

That debate may seem trivial if we’re talking about Rocketboom (and the milquetoast talent that it spawned and then lost to an as-yet unseen hit TV show or something), but the question of metrics is not so trivial when it is applied to counting votes in Florida, say, or counting bodies in Iraq. Questions of metrics, what they mean, and how we get them also come up in this country every ten years or so, when the government undertakes to follow its Constitutional obligation in the taking of the census. (The last census was taken in 2000, and the topic came up from time-to-time then. The next full census will be in 2010.)

A cursory glance at the political landscape right now reveals the obvious: we are still in the very early stages of our respective parties’ primary seasons. There are plenty of candidates, and although there may appear to be clear frontrunners, it’s both too early to be sure, and also clear that those positions are highly tenable (a woman and a bi-racial man are purported front-runners in the Democratic side, while a New England Mormon flip-flopper and a socially moderate Catholic are apparent front-runners in the Republican side. This is not a done deal, by any stretch.)

Now, back to The Show. It started, innoccuously-seeming enough, a year ago. Not much to suspect there, back in March 2006. Just another videoblog. But it wraps up a year later, and the climate has changed considerably. Primary season. The strategically-minded Ze Frank throws a party (or two), either on the East Coast or the West Coast, or both. He could just be throwing a party, sure. Or he could be energizing his “base,” on the coasts.

He gives an interview to the Observer in which he discusses his Hollywood ambitions, but also lets drop that he’s thirty-four years old. It’s 2007. He’ll be thirty-five in 2008. By the time the next President of the United States is sworn in, it will be 2009. Ze Frank will be thirty-five years old.

He is a writer and an actor.

There’s just one problem, alluded to in the Observer article. Ze Frank was born in Germany. Dealbraker? Maybe.

But this brings us back to all those trips he’s been taking out in California. Sure, that’s where the Hollywood studios are. But it’s also where a lively movement already exists to amend the U.S. Constitution on behalf of foreign-born citizens who might seek the highest office in the land.

Starting to come together, isn’t it?

It’s crazy all over again. Dukakis sat out attacks on his law and order record in Mass. Kerry sat out attacks on his record as a decorated veteran. Then he sat out attacks on his incorrectly perceived attacks on veterans (wha?). Now, Senator Boxer is being willfully misinterpreted, and it’s big news in New York, among other places. It’s no liberal media that’s pushing this coverage. It’s some very loud, very base, very capitalistic papers that know how to sell copies, which is another thing liberals can’t seem to figure out.

Anyway, let’s talk about Chickenhawks. Ezra is right, and Sullivan is wrong, because they both chose the same word and one of them understands it and the other one doesn’t.

Chickenhawk. Somebody else look it up, and try to understand what it means. And then explain how Secretary Rice is going to be as personally and deeply affected by further deaths of American (and Iraqi) soldiers as the families of those soldiers. It’s an old story, old white guys sending other people’s kids off to fight wars over their portfolios, and there’s nothing shocking or even all that electrifying (for anyone) in Boxer’s remarks. She’s not a great speaker, but she didn’t misspeak, and she’s just the latest victim in the long-running game of right wing, dunderheaded pile-on.

Would be nice if the Senator would learn from her predecessors in the ring and defend herself. The way to do that? Name her own friends and relatives who have been fighting in this war, whether or not they’ve been injured or killed. And if she doesn’t have any? Then come out and say that, and explain that therein lies some of her ambivalence over being so cavalier with our volunteer armed forces. Done.

So a few weeks back, Cisco unleashed its not-long-anticipated but incredibly named iPhone, prompting chuckles and a few mild strokes from executives and investors at Apple. Then, this week, Apple was like “BOOOYA!” and the world was like “BOOOYA!” and Cisco was like “I’m sure they’re just looking very carefully at the agreement we faxed over last night, and they’ll be sending us a big fat check in the mail any second now.” actually, the way it was reported on, it went like this:

Cisco calls CNET reporter with a statement about Apple’s use of the term “iPhone” for its new product. “Given Apple’s numerous requests for permission to use Cisco’s iPhone trademark over the past several years and our extensive discussions with them recently, it is our belief that with their announcement today, Apple intends to agree to the final document and public statements that were distributed to them last night and that address a few remaining items we expect to receive a signed agreement today.”

But now, it looks like Apple has decided to shred the thing they were thinking of signing, saying that lots of companies have been using the iPhone name, so just because Cisco got away with nabbing it legally shouldn’t mean that suddenly everyone has to follow the law. Or at least, they think they can get away with it for less than they would have to pay to do it all the way God intended — kickbacks to the sneaky-but-smart Cisco (What, they don’t have enough money already? They have to extort from Apple?)

Anyway, maybe Apple’s right and the claim that Cisco has won’t hold up. It might go to court, which would be fun, unquestionably fun. But in the meantime, the court of public opinion is in session.

I voted. You can too. And after you vote, you can view the results. And if you don’t like the way your vote looks among those results, just like real, official voting everywhere, you may change your vote.

Happy democracy.