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Whitney Houston, Again

[ 160 ] February 12, 2012 |

(Since everyone’s complaining about Rob’s Whitney Houston post, I thought I’d write a proper one.)

Whitney Houston burst onto the music scene in 1985 with her self-titled LP which had four number one hit singles on it, including “The Greatest Love of All,” “You Give Good Love” and “Saving All My Love for You,” plus it won a Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance by a female and two American Music Awards, one for best rhythm and blues single and another for best rhythm and blues video. She was also cited as best new artist of the year by Billboard and by Rolling Stone magazine. With all this hype one might expect the album to be an anticlimatic, lackluster affair, but the surprise was that Whitney Houston (Arista) was one of the warmest, most complex and altogether satisfying rhythm and blues records of the 1980s and Whitney herself had a voice that defies belief. From the elegant, beautiful photo of her on the cover of the album (in a gown by Giovanne De Maura) and its fairly sexy counterpart on the back (in a bathing suit by Norma Kamali) one knows that this wasn’t going to be a blandly professional affair; the record was smooth but intense and Whitney’s voice leaped across so many boundaries and was so versatile (though she was mainly a jazz singer) that it’s hard to take in the album on a first listening.

“The Greatest Love of All” was one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation and dignity. From the first line (Michael Masser and Linda Creed are credited as the writers) to the last, it was a state-of-the-art ballad about believing in yourself. It was a powerful statement and on that Whitney sung with a grandeur that approached sublime. Its universal message crossed all boundaries and instilled one with the hope that it’s not too late for us to better ourself, to act kinder. Since it’s impossible in the world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It was an important message, crucial really, and it was beautifully stated on this album.

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  • John

    Thanks, Patrick Bateman.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a very fine Chardonnay you’re not drinking.

    • Historiker

      This.

  • jon

    Great voice, and sad to see a talented person die before their time. But this is a personal tragedy that doesn’t need to be a national issue.

  • UberMitch

    I just don’t know what I am going to do when Huey Lewis kicks

    • Bill Murray

      i believe it is not hip to be square any more, you may lose your uber-ness

    • DrDick
    • John

      You know, his early work was a little too “new wave” for my taste, but when Sports came out in 83, I think he really came into his own, commercially and artistically.

      • Bill Murray

        The original News (mostly) as I remember was a country rock outfit called Clover that backed Elvis Costello on his first album (My Aim is True)

        • Richard

          Clover had two albums, both excellent and well worth seeking out

      • Furious Jorge

        “Workin’ for a Living” has one of the best harmonica solos I can think of.

      • bph

        Please remind of this opinion if you invite me over to your place.

      • Wow. None of the three people who replied to this recognized the quote.

        It’s from American Psycho, people. What the title character says.

        • Furious Jorge

          My apologies for not memorizing the entire book.

  • Anderson

    So Scott, did you win a bet … or lose one?

  • Nicely done

    *slow clap*

  • Saurs

    Jesus Christ, you people are fuckers.

    • Patrick Bateman

      And then some.

    • Bart

      Ain’t seen nothing yet – wait until Cheney dies.

      • Saurs

        Houston inconveniencing white dudes by existing is exactly the same as killing hordes of people far, far away, so long as you squint yer eyes real tight, cock yer head just so, and discard all sense of shame.

    • DrDick

      Oddly, most of the comments addressing Ms. Houston, in both threads, have been respectful. Most of the snark, as well as the posts themselves, have actually mostly addressed the ways that we, and particularly the press, address and deal with the deaths of celebrities. But then, it looks to me like you are just looking for an excuse to be outraged, so don’t let me stand in your way.

      • SEK

        Most of the snark, as well as the posts themselves, have actually mostly addressed the ways that we, and particularly the press, address and deal with the deaths of celebrities.

        This.

      • Saurs

        Yeah, dude. Quoting from American Psycho is some kinda metacommentary on celebrity worship. Pull the other one.

        • Popeye

          No, it’s obviously about race and gender and patriarchy. I mean, if SEK wasn’t sexist he would have written a post about Phil Collins not dying instead.

        • Slocum

          Have you read the book, seen the movie, or know anything about the era (so to speak) it depicts?

          • Saurs

            Yes, I have, and it’s everything to do with vapid consumerism and nowt to do with celebrities in the particular or general, ‘cept for Bateman’s choice in music, so your point is?

            • Halloween Jack

              Oh, Saurs. Oh, Saurs. Lemme ‘splain it to you: Bateman’s attempts to elevate vapid consumerism to some sort of deep, meaningful personal statement are nowhere more evident than in his deadly-earnest paeans to Top 40 stars. OK?

              • DrDick

                But this reveals that you are just another racist misogynist elitist with no respect for the common people.

              • elm

                That is one of the funniest comments I have ever read. I’m beginning to think that Saurs is a performance artist. I mean, what could celebrity culture– and pop music at that!–have to do with vapid consumerism? The two concepts are inherently unrelated!

  • It’s worth noting that The Greatest Love of All was originally written for the Muhammad Ali biopic The Greatest and was recorded by George Benson.

  • Andrew R.

    Scott, nine times out of ten I’m impressed by your ability to keep the clever and witty business going day in and day out at a fairly grueling pace, but damn, couldn’t you have waited, I dunno, a week? Or maybe not done the American Psycho homage at all?

    • UberMitch

      It’s not funny a week from now

    • SEK

      In all honesty, when I think of celebrations of Whitney Houston or Huey Lewis or Phil Collins’ talent, Bateman’s evaluations spring first to mind. (Plus, there’s the fact that so many people online and in the media unwittingly sound like they’re going to top off their mourning with a chainsaw and hookers. No reason not to make the connection obvious.)

      • Saurs

        In all honesty, when I hear white dudes making “crack” jokes and pathologizing the effects of classism and racism and patting themselves on the back for generously praising Houston for her voice like it was a passively received gift from god rather than something she trained (much in the way white dudes will piss and moan because black athletes have “unfair” advantages), I think: oh, patriarchy, you never do change.

        • SEK

          Did someone make a “crack” joke?

          • elm

            There was one on the other thread. But Saurs’ point about how cooler-than-thou responses to Whitney’s death is a sign of patriarchy is certainly well taken when we consider that all three of the artists you singled out above are members of notably oppressed groups.

            • John

              Well, Phil Collins is short. Short people have been oppressed by the Randy Newmans of the world from time immemorial.

            • SEK

              There was one on the other thread.

              And it wasn’t made by me. I can see why I was singled out for criticism.

            • UberMitch

              What notably oppressed groups are Huey Lewis and Phil Collins members of? Is it “The Washed Up”?

              • Just to be a whining, self-defensive asshole, I’d like it stated for the record that Huey Lewis and News’s latest album, Soulsville, is pretty damn good, and that Phil Collins has talent up the wazoo; just ask John Martyn, Eric Clapton, John Paul Jones, and any number of British rockers with genuine cred, if you don’t believe me. (And yes, I do look forward to being the pissy contrary voice in the LGM comment section when Billy Joel dies.)

                • Amanda in the South Bay

                  Why Billy Joel? All he did was sell the year 1962 over and over again to baby boomers. Every Billy Joel song seems to celebrate the early 60s in a slightly more modern style.

                • kth

                  Pfft. Wake me when you man the ramparts for Kenny Loggins on the occasion of his passing (though he’s a vegan, so it probably won’t be anytime soon).

                • John

                  I agree, Russell, although I do think that Collins works better within the confines of a group than as a solo artist. And I stress the word artist.

                  That being said, Sussudio is a great, great song. A personal favorite.

                • DrDick

                  Every Billy Joel song seems to celebrate the early 60s in a slightly more modern style.

                  Don’t go trying to lay that drek off on me. I never liked Billy Joel.

                • Popeye

                  I lauged at John’s Sussudio’s comment… because I’m a racist sexist patriarchal dude who is inconvenienced by Saurs’ existence.

                • when Billy Joel dies

                  That’s cheered me up some.

                • Halloween Jack

                  (And yes, I do look forward to being the pissy contrary voice in the LGM comment section when Billy Joel dies.)

                  Sorry, but you don’t get to hog that subsection all to yourself. The Stranger makes up for any number of minor sins.

              • elm

                What notably oppressed groups are Huey Lewis and Phil Collins members of? Is it “The Washed Up”?

                Shh. You’ll give away the joke.

            • Saurs

              Yes, ‘cos they’ve just died, haven’t they? And when they do die, all we’ll hear is hand-wringing over how black folk sure do like their drugs, all women sing the same way and rip each other off, ad nauseam, and being beaten up by your husband constitutes a “rocky” marriage. Brilliant joke, dude.

              • John

                Do you really think it’s inappropriate to talk about how Whitney Houston destroyed herself with drugs in the wake of her death, which was almost certainly due to the fact that she destroyed herself with drugs?

                And, fuck, if people aren’t quoting Bateman when Collins and Lewis die, that’s not a world I want to be a part of.

                • Saurs

                  Schadenfreude over a drug-user’s death is related to Easton Ellis how?

                • John

                  That’s a good question, given that you’re the one who’s been conflating Scott’s American Psycho joke with your own rants about how everyone is racist for talking about her drug problem.

                  I’d add that there are many legitimate reasons to find Houston’s drug problems worth talking about that have nothing to do with Schaudenfreude. Her story is terrifying and awful.

                • DrDick

                  Her story is terrifying and awful.

                  Which actually is what everyone has been talking about.

              • elm

                Who here have done any of those things?

                • DrDick

                  The voices in his head.

                • elm

                  The voices in his head.

                  Damn you! Now I have Cheap Trick stuck in my head.

                • Saurs

                  All the obits SEK is supposedly sending up. Or don’t you get his joke, either?

                  Plz stop assuming all people on the interwebs are men, thanks.

                • John

                  Would you care to elaborate on this? I can’t say that any of the obits I’ve read seem like they’re in any way gleeful. It’s a horrible, sad story.

                  Is your argument that obituaries shouldn’t talk about Houston’s public fall into drug addiction, because that’s racist?

              • elm

                All the obits SEK is supposedly sending up. Or don’t you get his joke, either?

                Ah, I see now. SEK is responsible for the racism and sexism in obits that he’s mocking. I’m still not sure I understand your point, but I’m starting to follow it. In your mind, SEK either could have chosen to call out the racism or sexism or he should have kept silent on the whole Whitney Houston thing entirely?

              • Halloween Jack

                That’s quite a lot of luggage you’re hauling around with you, sir/madam.

  • Anonymous

    My intro to Whitney was on the pages of Seventeen magazine. I remember reading she was pursuing a singing career and I thought “Ha. Good Luck to that– another model wanting to be an actress or singer.
    The same pages featured Phoebe Cates (plus, she had a twin? sister!) She wanted to be an actress. Her acting career never matched Whitney’s singing career, but I’m sure for many men of a certain age her turn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High was perfection.

    • Bill Murray

      or Paradise

      • mark k

        I almost became obsessed with Phoebe after watching Paradise. Wow!

    • Slocum

      Twin sister, you say?

      • rea

        Is this the twin sister who tried to have her killed, but Kevin Costner saved her?

        • Slocum

          I thought it was Cates with the twin. No?

          • Anonymous

            Cates. I think her name was Valerie.
            Now I’ll go see what I can find.

            • Anonymous

              Photos. Just a sister, not a twin.

              • Nathan of Perth

                Now that’s a hell of a name for a website.

  • Tom Renbarger

    I decided long ago never to troll in anyone’s shadow.

  • JupiterPluvius

    You know that I am not a fan of “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all” but two really jerkish posts about the death of a popular performer whose work was important to many fans seems like a pretty crap use of people’s time.

    • JupiterPluvius

      Not a big Houston fan myself, mind you. But I don’t see the upside in slamming a dead black lady’s body of work so gleefully. “Elvis was a hero to some/But he doesn’t mean shit to me” is a meaningful political statement; these posts, not so much.

      • SEK

        I’m not slamming anybody. I just thought it funny that so many people sounded like Patrick Bateman.

        • John

          Basically all the obits’ discussion of Houston’s early career sound really do sound exactly like Bateman’s discussion of her.

      • Well said, Jupiter.

      • Charlie

        You know, Jupiter, Chuck D actually rescinded his claim that Elvis was a racist. Look if you don’t like Whitney, fine. Say nothing. She’s not my absolute favorite, though I do appreciate her work. I found SEK’s post to be funny if a little dark, but the out-of-hand dismissals of Rob and Erik to be just rude and ill-informed.

        Whitney Houston is an important cultural figure, for both good and bad reasons. She was an iconic powerful black female who eventually suffered a tragic fall from grace, and she was a supremely talented vocalist. Her persona and work are musically and culturally important–though of course I sound like Patrick Bateman if I go into too much detail. Suffice it to say if you grew up in the 80s or early 90s, and are black or queer or wanted to be a singer or just plain liked her music, odds are Whitney Houston’s death does carry some poignance. I understand some cynicism about the roteness of our nation’s well-oiled grief machine, but it’s possible to swing too far the other way as well. Artists matter and they deserve to be mourned and remembered.

        That said, if someone wanted to post a somewhat critical post juxtaposing her musically stirring but ultimately jingoistic performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the eve of the Gulf War with Jimi Hendrix’s ultimately more profound and challenging version at Woodstock, that would be fine too. Just don’t act like she’s some fluffy unimportant person and her passing means nothing.

      • Hob

        Who said anything about a meaningful political statement?

        I guess it’s possible that people dumping on her music are meanies driven by racism, but it’s hard for me to see it that way because it just reads like the same kind of violent antipathy I have to a lot of stuff that was massively popular in the ’80s. I was a kid with a job at a mall where I had to listen to the same 10 songs 99,000 times a day, so the sound of a certain kind of shiny-schmaltzy pop eventually made me want to barf; it felt like having to stare all day at Tom Cruise’s face with a shit-eating grin on it. It felt like the kind of thing the school principal would approve of (especially “The Greatest Love of All”, which they actually did play several times in high-school assemblies as part of some ghastly skits about saying no to drugs). It was the opposite of fun and, worse, it seemed like everyone except me totally loved it.

        I know that’s not a rational thing and I’ve gotten to appreciate some of that stuff a little better since (and I was unaware until just now of Houston’s later work, some of which I like a lot more), but I’d venture to guess that I’m not the only one on the Internet who has the opposite of ’80s nostalgia and has a hard time getting past it sometimes.

        • Charlie

          Of course they are not racist. There are plenty of things to criticize in her music! But to just dismiss her seems ignorant.

          I’d venture to guess that I’m not the only one on the Internet who has the opposite of ’80s nostalgia and has a hard time getting past it sometimes.

          I think this is exactly what motivated Erik and Rob’s comments. They are bearded dudes of a certain age and I think Whitney Houston might remind them a mainstream culture they truly loathed in their high school years. I’m just a little surprised that they cannot now stand back and say, gee maybe there was something in that woman’s career worth appreciating, or, at the very least, be classy enough to keep their disdain for her quiet.

          • 1. Erik has no beard. No one who has ever met Erik believes that he’s capable of growing a beard.

            2. I speak in favor of no war against mainstream culture; I quite like Michael Jackson’s work, and found his passing considerably more affecting. As my previous post pointed out, I have never cared for Whitney Houston’s work, but I don’t offer judgment of those who enjoy it or mourn her passing.

            • Charlie

              1. He writes like a dude with a beard. (I say that as both a compliment and knock.)

              2. Fair enough but your original post did argue “our aesthetic commitments play out not simply in terms of preference for one musician over another, but indeed help determine what we find relevant and irrelevant.” My point is that you can make pretty strong case for Whitney Houston’s relevance whether you liked her music or not.

              • I’m not sure what one with a beard is supposed to write like. Rob is of course correct that I could not grow a beard if I never shaved in my life. But I assume you mean someone with a beard hates popular culture and is exclusive about their tastes. This is absolutely not how I write or think. I am very opinionated but am also a proselytizer for what I like, some of which is mainstream music.

                I have absolutely nothing against Whitney Houston. Not at all. I just don’t care.

                • Charlie

                  But I assume you mean someone with a beard hates popular culture and is exclusive about their tastes. This is absolutely not how I write or think. I am very opinionated but am also a proselytizer for what I like, some of which is mainstream music.

                  No, it was more or less just a dumb joke covering for my blanket assumption that all tenure-track beer guys have beards. Still your overanalysis makes a good point: I’m probably just as guilty of overanalyzing your total lack of interest in Whitney Houston.

                • LosGatosCA

                  Funny though, I’ve never encountered apathy with such vehemence before.

                  Seems a tad defensive.

                  Actually more than a tad.

          • Bill Murray

            well Rob expressed a disdain for her music, her acting and her public persona, none of which are her, so at least in this respect I think you are wrong.

            It’s good that her music/artistic life had greater meaning to some than it did for me. But when Paul Westerberg dies, expecting someone that didn’t care for the Replacements before then to suddenly start caring or to not think Westerberg was often a huge jerk and not point that out is a kind of hero worship I find off-putting

          • Hob

            But that’s the reason I don’t find it surprising at all. When there are a gajillion articles all over the Internet providing exactly that appreciation, it’s understandable that some people feel the same as in high school– like this is something that’s going to be super popular forever no matter what they say, so they might as well just vent some irritation.

            I don’t really see that kind of thing as being either classy or not classy– to me, “classy” is a standard for how you respond to things that are directed at you, it’s not about an opinion about pop culture that you write on your blog (and it seems to me that all the writers you’re objecting to were clearly being dismissive of music they don’t like, not of Houston as a person). I’m not at all a fan of contrarian rudeness for its own sake, but I also don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility to make only constructive statements or rethink their tastes on this occasion, or that there’d be any point in a neutral offering like “Maybe there was something worth appreciating.”

        • Furious Jorge

          Hob, I am right there with you. In fact, a Whitney Houston song was my class song in high school (1989). I hated every goddamn thing about mainstream culture in my urban backwater high school, and Houston was definitely a part of that.

          Still. The intervening years have given me the ability to appreciate Houston’s talent, even if I never have liked what she used it for. Not sure if Erik or Rob ever gave it even that much thought, which is unfortunate.

  • I know when I’m not wanted.

    • davenoon

      These threads sure are taking the heat off my post about Jewel five years ago.

      • redrob64

        You were a monster then and remain such!

  • Sophia

    Ok, I’m not a fan of Whitney Houston. And, yes, the commentary about her (long before her death) was very much like what is written here, until the last two sentences. But I feel the need to point out that no matter how treacly it was, The Greatest Love of All was basically an “It Gets Better” song for many kids back in the day. And I don’t think that interpretation is a perversion of the lyrics like, say, thinking Every Breath You Take is a love song.

    • SEK

      My target isn’t the artist, it’s the way she’s being discussed. I thought the joke fairly obvious enough: the gushing over Houston by the media sounds exactly like Patrick Bateman, ergo the media’s no better at appreciating her work than a misogynistic, psychotic yuppie of a serial killer.

      • Furious Jorge

        I got it, and it was funny.

        It’s even funnier because a lot of other people in this very thread still don’t get it.

        • djw

          The problem, I think is that we don’t actually have shared norms of decorum in commenting on the deaths of famous people, but people treat their own norms governing this matter as if they really are deeply shared norms. As with Hitchens’ death, this leads to considerable confusion.

          • Saurs

            Whereas Hitchens actually made the world an objectively worse place to live in and was public masturbation fodder for a lot of war-mongering white supremacists who don’t so much offer up apologies for his misogyny and his vile racism as they don’t give a shit, either way.

            Houston made pop music, nauseating as that might be to the cool white dudes who run this here blawg.

          • djw

            The content and moral valence of their lives and legacies had nothing whatsoever to do with my point.

            • Saurs

              We’ll see next a white dude important to SEK’s sense of self kicks the bucket. I’m hoping for somebody especially hacky and derivative and middle-brow, like Fincher.

              • strannix

                What in the hell are you arguing? That everyone who dies deserves an obit of equal respect from this blog?

      • Bruce Baugh

        It’s a really fucking dumb stupid joke, and it would be great if someday people stopped treating it as being one bit more impressive than whatever 4chan is on about this evening

        • Furious Jorge

          Concern troll is concerned.

        • Slocum

          Actually, it was an awesome joke.

      • Sophia

        Sorry to comment on a (near?) dead thread, but it stops sounding exactly like that in the last two sentences. The media commentary doesn’t take that psychotic turn in interpretation. Without that turn, the commonality with Bateman is merely overwrought praise of banalities.

        Also (asking an empty room), did anyone else read American Psycho and think that Ellis was quite sincere in the music chapters?

    • Hob

      I’m kind of pleasantly surprised to learn that a lot of people heard “The Greatest Love” that way. I didn’t at all, and I totally missed that she had become a queer icon; it would’ve blown my mind back then to imagine that someone so successful, who was seen by adults as non-threatening, could have anything to say to my angsty self. (Again, I blame those high school assemblies. You know the Patrick Swayze character in Donnie Darko, the motivational speaker? We had stuff exactly like that– and I mean EXACTLY– and it was someone’s job to find a popular song that said something about self-esteem, so they picked that song every time.)

      • MAJeff

        … I totally missed that she had become a queer icon…

        We loves us some divas!

        • DrDick

          Hell, even I knew that and I’m an Okie.

  • TN

    I hate to say this about one of my favorite blogs, but the posters are all really being dicks about this. Hey, it’s great that you’re too cool to care about mainstream pop, but is that really a good reason to piss on a woman who just died?

    • SEK
      • TN

        Patrick Bateman didn’t write those words quoted above; Patrick Bateman doesn’t exist. Bret Easton Ellis wrote them as a way of showing how shallow and declasse his murderous Master of the Universe was. Quoting them in the way you did comes across as a way of showing how shallow and declasse all of Whitney Houston’s fans are, and leaves the impression you are looking down on them just as much as Ellis looked down on his fictional creation Bateman.

        If they were supposed to come across as some sort of comment on the media, you’ve omitted several steps, such as citing which members of the media are supposedly making these shallow and declasse statements. Under the most charitable possible reading, it’s a strawman argument, one that isn’t worthy of you.

  • kth

    Flying Spaghetti Monster, this I pray of you: when Neil Young or Iggy Pop joins the garage band invisible, grant that I not get a case of the sniffles merely because someone treats that occasion in a manner that is irreverent or even sophomoric. Because how lame would that be.

    • And of course, if people did say negative things about Neil Young or Iggy Pop, the backlash against them would have nothing to do with them speaking ill of the dead and everything to do with their horrible taste.

      • Furious Jorge

        Neil Young is overrated and pretty much always has been.

        And I will say that again when he dies.

        • kth

          LEAVE NEIL ALONE, YOU F***KER! (not really, I hope I don’t have to add)

        • Neil is perfectly competent, even talented, songwriter and guitarist, but his best stuff was with Messrs Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Deny it if you wish, but it’s true.

          • That is crazy talk. Crazy. Talk.

            • LosGatosCA

              Crazy Horse talk.

          • John

            What, seriously? I think he only originally did five or so songs with CSNY, and only two particularly well known ones – Ohio and Helpless. Those are both really good songs, but I don’t think they stand head and shoulders above the solo work he was doing at the same time.

          • LosGatosCA

            You missed the Buffalo Springfield?

          • Scott Lemieux

            but his best stuff was with Messrs Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

            This is the least defensible thing you will ever say.

          • Halloween Jack

            I’ll just say the same thing that I say to people who insist that Bruce Springsteen is nothing more than a bellower of doggerel about cars and New Jersey: I feel sorry for you more than anything else, really.

        • Richard

          I agree. And add Iggy to the list of severely overrated.

  • Saurs

    The original Houston post was published within a few minutes of the AP report. But, yes, please do continue to talk about how both are just very sophisticated take-downs of fawning obituaries that had yet to be written. That’s quite plausible and totally defensible.

    • Slocum

      Not both, this one.

      • DrDick

        And Rob’s post was a not terribly coherent mention of her passing (which contained a link to a positive obituary) and commentary on how these things are generally handled. But go ahead and enjoy your faux outrage.

        • DrDick

          I would also note that, while he is not a fan of any sort, he did think she was a significant enough figure that it merited mention.

        • Ed

          Well, hostile obituaries are generally thin on the ground in the hours after a person’s death unless the departed is an Iron Curtain dictator or such like. I agree about the not terribly coherent part, but why bother, unless you’re overly eager to make it clear to a waiting world that you’re superior to mainstream pop stars and their dopey fans? It’s not outrage so much as letting the tastelessness and condescension waft over me, to paraphrase Aaron Sorkin.

          • strannix

            why bother…?

            To acknowledge a newsworthy event, and give one’s readership a thread to discuss it?

            These Houston threads are really sort of unreal.

            • elm

              Yeah, I don’t quite the backlash to these threads: this blog discusses music and pop culture a lot; someone who was famous in the formative years of the blog’s authors died; and one of the authors offered up his commentary on her music and on the way the media treats celebrity deaths. And all hell breaks loose.

              I pretty much viewed it as a “Whitney Houston Open Thread” post when he made it, but I guess I was unprepared how seriously people take Whitney.

              • strannix

                Right. I can understand (though do not share) the offense taken in response to SEK’s post, because it was deliberately antagonistic.

                But Farley’s was basically just “not a fan”. Innocuous enough, I thought.

                • Popeye

                  Don’t forget the racist patriarchy.

                • strannix

                  Well sure. “Innocuous enough except for the racist patriarchy” … I believe that was clearly implied in my comment.

                • Saurs

                  It’s all quite simple and while I’m not surprised by any one commenter’s reaction, I’m a bit taken aback (and not in a pearls clutched and fallen on the fainting couch half-dead kind of way, just a tad bemused) at how dumb some of the blawgwriters are playing here.

                  Speaking out against and resisting in onesself ingrained impulses to voice the more banal, regular, and therefore insidious kinds of racism and sexism is somewhat the business of this here blawg, or at least some of the dudes herein make special ally noises towards the more mainstream feminists and will on occasion pen a legitimately feminist argument, although I suppose usually this is in support of something that already benefits or would benefit them (like contraception).

                  Why, then, scare-quotes around “patriarchy” fly, poo-poo the very notion of racism, is anybody’s guess. Is it reasonable to assume that discussions in print and interweb journalism (you know, what’s supposedly being lampooned here) around a shimmery pop-type black female musician’s death would automatically, in this political climate be devoid of racism and sexism? If not, why the focus on how silly the fans are and not how shitty it is that Houston’s life is being used to illustrated fucked up ideas about black women?

                  Why is it necessary to get your digs in about how much she sucked and how much her fans suck when a more interesting post would simply do what the blawgwriters always do? Take down the bigots, expose the tired cliches for what they are.

                  I know SEK’s pv breadan’butter is feigning some kind of cultural superiority, but even though his opinions and tastes are largely shite of the first water, most of us make an effort to shaddup when he wants to wax long and philosophical about some mainstream film he’s content to call art. Not anymore, anyway.

                • strannix

                  Next question, then:

                  Do you find the spelling of “blawg” to be meaningful in some way? Or is just irony of some kind?

                • SEK

                  I know SEK’s pv breadan’butter is feigning some kind of cultural superiority, but even though his opinions and tastes are largely shite of the first water, most of us make an effort to shaddup when he wants to wax long and philosophical about some mainstream film he’s content to call art. Not anymore, anyway.

                  Do you even know what your point is, anymore? I’m a déclassé elitist who’s mocking people for finding popular culture meaningful? If you present a coherent position, I’m more than happy to listen to your objection — whatever it may be — to what I’ve written, but until then, I’m not sure what to do with you. Write more about Proust? Write less about Proust?

                • elm

                  It appears that her point is that by not calling out the racism and sexism in others’ writings about Whitney, you have failed to adequately fight the patriarchy.

  • Does anybody here remember ’86?

    I will go so far as to say that when exposed to hit radio back then an interlude of “How Will I Know?” was a relief.

    • Bill Murray

      I remember that year, I got my masters then. And I stopped listening to top-40 radio — well really that happened over 1984-1986, but i completed it in 1986. And this reminds me of why I stopped.

      • DrDick

        I got my Ph.D. the following year, but I had stopped listening to top 40 radio 20 years earlier. Even in Oklahoma, there were viable alternatives.

        • Bill Murray

          but where else would you hear the Byrds?

          • DrDick

            Let me see now, 1986 – 20 = 1966. Byrds’ career = 1964-1973. Question answered? Tough in all honesty, I did not really stop listening to top 40 radio until about 1968 when I was 16.

            Most of the music I was listening to I heard at friend’s houses and they heard about it from their older siblings off at college.

            • How many of the songs on that 1986 list have you heard?

              • DrDick

                That I remember, about a dozen or so, though many are by artists I try to forget, so I may have heard them and not paid attention.

    • elm

      3. “Separate Lives”…..Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin

      I first read this as Phil Collins and Marilyn Manson, which might actually be awesome! Otherwise, holy hell, batman, that was a crappy year on the pop charts. A couple of Tears for Fears, som mid-career Springsteen, some crappy songs I’ve always had soft spots for (e.g., One Night in Bangkok) and then a whole lot of Phil Collins and even worse dreck. Dang.

      • Maybe, but I will defend “Careless Whisper” to the death. Death, I say!

    • Uncle Kvetch

      Does anybody here remember ’86?

      The year I graduated from college!

      There was all kinds of great music being made back then. Absolutely NONE of it could be heard on commercial radio, which was wall-to-wall shit.

      It’s always salutary to be reminded just how different (and difficult) music fandom could be before the Internet.

    • KadeKo

      Back then, I heard “Saving all my love for you” and immediately thought, “A grown-up delivery of a grown-up song”.

      There was great chart success for solo and group female singers in the mid-late ’80s, but very little of that maturity or that kind of subject. It is something fierce that Houston didn’t live long enough to be the torch singer this song forecast.

  • jeer9

    Farley is bored and writes a barely comprehensible RIP post about an artist whom he dislikes and which exhibits about the same compassion for her that he musters for innocent victims of drone attacks in faraway places. Meh. He is, however, starting a new series on sea power which promises to delve far below the surface in its cultural and historical analysis. One can barely wait.

    Lemieux and Loomis share a postprandial giggle over the death before returning to write indignant posts about burgeoning environmental disasters and assholes who think they’re artists. Lemieux’s is so poorly written that one suspects it was composed while under the influence.( He apparently sobers up at some point and fixes it.)

    SEK’s disingenuous explanation of his post on the unfortunate death has all the substance one might expect from a university wit.

    The threads, on the other hand, are very entertaining as usual. Kudos to TN and Saurs. Not only are you culturally inferior to the masthead contributors, but you lack the sense of humor and joie de vivre that informs their moral universe so fully.

    • davenoon

      Well, shit. Apparently I’m so inactive around here that everyone’s forgotten what an asshole I am.

      • elm

        I was going to make reference to your Jewel post, but you beat me to it. These threads are quite reminiscent of that one.

    • Slocum

      C’m’here jeer. I think you need a hug.

      • jeer9

        Fireman: “How do you live with yourself?”

        George Costanza: “It’s not easy…”

    • SEK

      SEK’s disingenuous explanation of his post on the unfortunate death

      My post wasn’t about her death, nor was my explanation of the joke disingenuous. Only on the Internet must obvious jokes be repeatedly explained.

  • dave

    Since so very much of what does go on here hinges on the very real sense of moral superiority exercised by all concerned, this episode should be memorable for its exposure of the extent to which people can be tripped up by the sharp edges of the holier-than-thou escalator. Also, how does someone like Saurs live in the world without exploding?

  • Great voice masking a terrible soul. I’m sad she died so early, but more sad that this is a story at all. She needed help, not fame.

  • “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.” -Oscar Wilde

    Please write more about Proust.

    • kth

      I thought of that quote, and would have amended it to “he has a heart of stone who can hear an unironic appraisal of Whitney Houston’s career, and not think of Patrick Bateman”.

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  • Aaron Baker

    It’s quasi-off-topic, but please read this post at Balloon-Juice (a further comment on a post at Little Green Footballs) on the stomach-churning racism of hundreds (thousands?) of commenters on a Fox News report of Houston’s death: http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/02/13/why-we-fight-2/

    One would have thought that simple decency would have restrained them; but I guess it’s always a mistake to look for decency there.

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