Stuff I Didn’t Get To: Bowie, Barack and Billionaires

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Cancer sucks. You may not agree with everything I’m about to post, but I’ll gladly open with something we can all agree on.

To wit, if you’re a fan of legendary 69-year-old British entertainers, losing two of them to cancer surely made this past week a sobering one for you. Just as the world of cinematic villainy will be a lesser place without Nottingham sheriff and Hogwarts professor extraordinaire Alan Rickman, the world of entertainment, as a whole, will be a lesser place without David Bowie.

Dr. Simon V. Anderson, my wonderful, colorful jazz and pop history professor at the University of Cincinnati, once described David Bowie as a “very shrewd businessman.” He’d have to be in order to stay so hip for so long.

This happened because, for Bowie, like all good artists, any pressure to innovate was intrinsic. Inspired by Elvis Presley, he took the theater of live rock-and-roll to new levels not just by his own name, but also with the Ziggy Stardust alter ego that served him so well. Furthermore, Bowie was a social innovator by owning his true sexual orientation back when such a thing was widely considered a threat to America’s status quo.

“…And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…”
-David Bowie

You could say the same about Queen’s Freddie Mercury, with whom Bowie collaborated on the 1982 hit “Under Pressure.” Of both men’s most popular works, that one ranks quite highly on my own chart. A year later, Let’s Dance became one of the premier albums of the decade; roughly 20 years later, it became one of the premier albums of my own obsessive Eighties collection. Two years after that, Bowie’s message-sending lyrics from his 1972 hit single Changes became the opening shot of The Breakfast Club, one of the most iconic and resonant movies of its decade.

But perhaps my favorite Bowie song of all time was another collaboration: his “Little Drummer Boy” duet with Bing Crosby on the latter’s 1977 CBS Christmas special. It is, quite possibly, my favorite Christmas song, a classic hodgepodge of old school and new school. It is also the last TV appearance Crosby ever made, which later proved to be one of American television’s most popular moments of all time. Note how Crosby was comfortable enough in his own celebrity to defer to, at the time, the less established star:

Dr. Anderson taught me more than just music history; he taught me music appreciation. The greatness of David Bowie is that you don’t have to be of any particular generation to appreciate him.

Whether you need the perfect song for a blind date, or just someone to judge a walk-off, never forget:

Crying Over Crying is Just Plain Sad

Even with a personal soapbox like this, I will aim not to be controversial, nor will I go out of my way to be political. However, after a lifetime of living in a hoity-toity school district, plus four years of college in Ohio, I only have so much tongue to bite.

Recently President Obama was attacked by conservative people and pundits for allegedly fake-crying about the Sandy Hook tragedy during a speech about executive orders aimed toward gun control:

There is always an element of theater in politics, like when President Bush dressed as a soldier and held court on an aircraft carrier beneath a giant banner that screamed “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” amid Middle East turmoil, and just as certainly, ad hominem attacks, from all pockets of society, will always come with that territory. That said, this particular attack is pretty low, even for the attackers.

There was nothing fake about the President’s show of emotion here. Furthermore, who are they to say there was? Did they get a taped confession from the White House prop department? Is there hidden camera footage of Biden sneaking a couple onions under the podium? If you’re reading this and you were one of the finger-wagging Fox News employees who cried foul–just to name one of those aforementioned pockets of society–do some actual research and go back to when news of the Sandy Hook tragedy first broke.

Obama was just as visibly upset then as he was when he announced those executive orders. As a parent, and as a living, breathing organism with something other than ice water in his veins, and not just as a world leader, he has a right to be. Our government dropped the ball in the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook, and those weren’t just voters, or protesters, or lobbyists they let down.

Those were children.

It’s our prerogative not to respect the man or his policies, but can’t we at least show some respect for the issue itself? Party politics, in my lifetime, have reached new depths of sadness, and you know it’s getting even more pathetic when Paul Ryan, a leading member of the opposing party, can’t even loosen up his poker face enough to express approval when Obama says something like this:

Jesus, even McCain stood for that one.

A Million Bucks Shy of Being a Millionaire…

As long as I’m in the middle of sharing potentially unpopular sentiments, count me among those who didn’t want to buy a Powerball ticket for the recent record-breaking billion-dollar drawing. In further, fuller disclosure, my mother bought a ticket for the preceding one that yielded an unclaimed grand prize, but that’s it.

For me, it was never about the money; it was about what does and doesn’t come with it. Although there are ongoing trends toward reversing this position elsewhere, Pennsylvania is still one of the majority that do not grant anonymity to jackpot winners. The wealth may be attractive, but the permanent forfeiture of peace is not.

Martin Mull had a very apt line on the episode of Roseanne in which a toast is proposed after the Conners have won the lottery: “To know what God thinks of money, one only has to look at those to whom He has given it.”

Powerball ticketThat quote actually originated from American writer Dorothy Parker. I’ll save you the time of explaining who she is (I had to check Wikipedia myself), but let’s just say jabs at the rich were not uncommon for her. Still, I’m sure even Ms. Parker, like me, would be at ease knowing who shared Powerball’s billion–er, hundreds of millions: this mild-mannered Tennessee couple.

On the other hand, I would have invoked Ms. Parker’s and Mr. Mull’s shared wit, while throwing up in my mouth a little, had rumor of a hedge fund manager holding California’s winning ticket been proven true. In addition, I hope there’s a special room in Hell reserved for the same fake media outlet that perpetrated that rumor, because it later punked me and others into believing a Florida military widow held one of the three winning tickets.

Okay, bad job by me falling for clickbait. Worse job by them to think toying with people like that is anything more than wasteful–or anything less than wrong. They must have the same warped moral compass as this guy.

Scratch the idea for the special room in Hell. It’ll be much cheaper to rent from him.

Anyway, I was brought up to believe that money earned is better than money gifted, although I was also brought up not to look a gift horse in the mouth. So I admit I wouldn’t mind winning just a few million. I can stretch a few million. I would share it with family and friends just as quickly as I would make my own (mostly) practical investments. I don’t need an eight-car garage and an umbrella holder made of Martha Stewart’s private parts. I’m not greedy, just desirous of living comfortably.

Half a billion, however, let alone a full billion, is truly more money than I would ever know what to do with–and having something I don’t know what to do with has never ended well.

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